posted 2012-10-25 13:28:51

New Beverage Contract Ousts Cocoa-Cola Products

Ten year deal with Pepsi makes company exclusive beverage provider

Kimberly Milner

News Editor

Hunter College recently signed a million-dollar contract with the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company of New York which gave the company exclusive rights to stock the vending machines and soda fountains at Hunter, effectively knocking Coca-Cola and other Pepsi competitors off campus. After years of apparent harmony between the two soda giants, the decades-old Coca- Cola vs. Pepsi war once again rages at Hunter College.

As part of the contract, signed this past April and expiring in 2022, Pepsi will pay the Hunter College Auxiliary Enterprise Corporacion $100,000 annually in exchange for the exclusivity on campus. The bottler will also be required to provide and maintain all on-campus vending machines and soda fountains.

A Hunter student gets a drink from a Pepsi vending machine. Photo by Eddy Boguslavsky.

The Pepsi distributor will also provide yearly donations to the college that include: $1,000 to the Hunter College Foundation, Inc. for student scholarships; Gatorade brand coolers, bottles and cups for Hunter athletes; and 200 cases of either Aquafina bottled water or 12-ounce canned sodas. The company must also have at least three sampling events on campus, and donate raffle prizes for Hunter to use at “special events.”

The College Point based bottling company is licensed by the global food and beverage provider, PepsiCo, the world’s second-largest soft drink maker behind Coca-Cola. Pepsi reported $66.5 billion in net revenues last year.

While some students became aware of the college’s new Pepsi-only agreement this past spring when Coca-Cola branded vending machines disappeared, Hunter did not publicly announce that it switched beverage providers. Of 105 Hunter students the Envoy polled, 89 students did not know that only Pepsi products were now sold on campus instead of Coca-Cola.

Pepsi’s April takeover coincided with a 25-cent increase in soft-drink prices thatraised the cost of a 12-ounce can of soda to $1.25. Fortunately, street vendors located around the campus continue to offer 12-ounce cans of Coca-Cola for $1.00.

Students desiring to buy Coca-Cola or non-Pepsi brand beverages have found recourse in purchasing drinks no longer sold on campus from street vendors. Stepping off campus to purchase a beverage isn’t really an inconvenience for Coca-Cola fans, said continuing student and Geography major, Juan-Jose Real, 50. “It’s better to buy it here [at the carts] because if they bring Coke back to campus it will be more expensive” he said. “I can get a hotdog [here] too,” he added.

The Pepsi’s monopoly on Hunter vending machines will not prevent the distribution of Snapple, Red Bull or Vitamin Water, which Hunter College is explicitly permitted to stock by the contract. Tap water and fresh-brewed tea and coffee stations – which organizations like the Undergraduate Student Government make available to students for free – are also not within the scope of the contract.

Of the 105 students also polled for their taste preference between Coca-Cola and Pepsi sodas, 51 said they preferred the taste of Coke, while 36 said Pepsi was better. 23 students said they refused to drink either brand’s soda.

“I was given Pepsi when I think I was still in the hospital – it’s a family thing – my family gave it to me as a kid,” said sophomore and Anthropology major, Nicholas Veroutis, 21, who said he preferred a simple Pepsi to more expensive fruit drinks that market to urbane crowds. Other students support the college’s recent switch to Pepsi services for more political reasons.

“The Coca-Cola Corp. donates a lot of money to The American Legislative Exchange Council,” said History and Adolescent Education double major, Charles Handras, 23, who said he refused to purchase the Coca-Cola products. ALEC is an American non-profit organization which many have criticized for its corporate lobbying.

In the past decade some CUNY institutions opposed to the Coca-Cola Company’s role in globalization and the corporations’ human rights violations have taken action to remove its beverages from campus. In 2006, the CUNY Law School cited poor labor conditions at Coca- Cola plants in Colombia to ban Coca-Cola products from vending machines. CUNY Law also prohibited student groups from using school money to buy affiliated products.

Many members of the student activist group Hunter Students United, believe corporate businesses should not be on campus at all.

“Public schools are supposed to serve the community and usually global corporations don’t serve the community,” said member Tess Bath, 23, majoring in Urban Space and Politics, who said local beverage businesses could replace corporate providers. When asked how Coca-Cola soft-drinks benefit colleges, a representative from the Coca-Cola Company’s Industry and Consumer Affairs department said its company’s sodas “help fill the body’s water requirement” and had sugars “that were a source of carbohydrates” that would sustain students throughout the day.

Despite Hunter’s recent contract, another beverage server may potentially cut Pepsi’s reign short. In June of this year the CUNY Board of Trustees announced its intentions to solicit a university-wide beverage provider for five years, arguing that a single beverage provider would bring in more revenue for the University system. Hunter is allowed to terminate its current contract with the Pepsi- Bottling Company if a beverage provider is contracted by CUNY. Eligible bidders will be considered up until 3 p.m., Nov. 1.


Graphics by Apneet Kaur