Uber’s global link-up with in-car commerce firm Cargo is likely to be a game-changer for soft drinks, with convenience emerging as a potentially major distribution channel for the industry.

Soft drinks — particularly carbonates — have been hit by the crackdown on sugar, with many consumers switching to healthier alternatives. This trend is highly likely to continue, with consumption of carbonates in the US set to fall by 2% in 2018, according to GlobalData’s Annual Soft Drinks Insights report.

With some low-sugar and low-calorie variants also falling flat, the convenience offered by in-car commerce could provide the perfect outlet for soft drinks manufacturers to regain their lost consumer base.

The two firms have already partnered in some parts of the US, and a number of soft drinks giants have got on board with the project. Earlier this year, for instance, Red Bull launched an “in-car product sampling campaign” in Uber and Lyft cabs, while Coca-Cola offered complimentary Glaceau SmartWater for Uber passengers in Atlanta. This level of support underlines the high likelihood of in-car commerce becoming the next big foodservice trend.

The Cargo service allows Uber drivers to potentially earn hundreds of extra dollars each month, while also boosting their ratings on the Uber app. This, together with the fact that the boxes are offered free of charge, makes it a no-brainer for drivers and, again, shows in-car commerce to be a trend that is likely to pay off.

One possible sticking point, though, is the lack of space in Cargo boxes. The rising demand for a wide range of flavours and personalisation options among soft drink consumers in the US cannot be fully exploited via small compartments that fit between the front seats of a car. However, it is nonetheless a chance for brands to draw in interest to lesser known products; Coca-Cola’s decision to offer Glaceau Smartwater to Uber passengers could well be an example of this. Brands could even gain some degree of exclusivity through the partnership, as the boxes’ small size means there is not much room for rival brands.

Either way, the partnership will need time to prove whether convenience can trump choice as soft drink consumers’ top priority.

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