As part of a war as old as the debate between “soda” and “pop,” Pepsi and Coca-Cola products battled to determine their place on the RIT campus. As the contract with Pepsi came to a close, the administration in charge of Dining Services made the decision to switch to Coca-Cola products. The transition also came with a lot of perks for RIT, some of which outweighed the benefits given by having a contract with Pepsi.
The change was announced in June when the school sent the message out via Message Center and various social media outlets. Kory Samuels, executive director of Dining Services, was very influential in the change of contracts. “We had a contract with Pepsi for somewhere between 14 and 15 years,” Samuels commented. “I wouldn’t say it was a bad contract … We got product on time, [and] it seemed like people enjoyed the products.”
One of the reasons Dining Services made the change was due to the increase in operations size. Since 2009, Dining Services has opened six new locations, including the new Polisseni Center. As a result, Samuels and many other administrators in Dining Services started reconsidering contracts with suppliers and vendors. One of the reasons they were drawn to Coca-Cola, according to Samuels, was due to their excellent marketing and networking skills. “[Coke] is one of the better marketing companies in the world…” Samuels commented. “Seeing some of the different things they’ve done on campuses, from branding to special events to nation and local campaigns … all of those things wrapped up in one package really stacked it up against the competition.”
Pepsi and other products haven’t been totally phased out, however. Students can still purchase packs of cans at the Corner Store and the occasional bottle can still be seen in various locations around campus.
Samuels was initially worried about the potential loss of Mountain Dew, a product he describes as a huge mover on campus. Although sales of Mountain Dew have dropped since the transition, the beverage is still going strong across campus.
It has been debated whether or not the change to new products was purely financially driven, and even some question what RIT received in return when signing the contract. Samuels says that the University received scholarships which were then distributed among the students.
One source of controversy in the transition is the inclusion of water bottles from brands such as Smartwater and Dasani. RIT has made moves to phase out water bottles across campus in an effort to be more environmentally friendly. “We’ve been taking measures as time progresses to mitigate [water bottle usage],” Samuels said. “To be able to start drawing the water bottle sales back, we’re obviously going to have to have more water filtration stations on campus. It’s something we expect to continually transition across time, until told otherwise.” In many dining locations on campus, bottled water occupies a large space in the coolers.
According to RIT's sustainability website, "Water is available at fountain locations in dining centers for no cost. After the current vending contract expires, no new contracts for bottled water will be entered into." Additionally, "University funds may not be used to purchase single serving bottles of water." It has said that since as early as September 2012.
Hans Kohls, a graduate Engineering student, enjoys having Coke products on campus. “It has more variety in terms of products; we have more choices to drink over Pepsi products.” Kohls believes that the transition was partially financially driven, but also sees the value in having more connections with different companies and trying something new.
Overall, Samuels believes there has been a lot of excited and positive feedback about the transition.