LU Dining Services changes soft drink providers

Brianna Stapleton

Do you prefer Pepsi or Coke? Some people can’t tell the difference, while others are very particular about their choice of soda.
Since the beginning of fall term, you may have noticed a difference in the soft drinks offered at Downer Commons and in the vending machines around campus. The soft drink provider for Lawrence University changed from Coca-Cola to Pepsi after a long process of gathering student input and contract proposals from local soft drink purveyors.
Pat Niles, the director of Dining Services, explained why a change in soft drink providers needed to be made. “Coke basically had a monopoly on campus,” said Niles.
All of the vending machines on campus were Coca-Cola brand soft drinks. Up until this year, Lawrence had not had a contract with a soft drink provider. It was necessary to draw up a contract and offer local soft drink purveyors the opportunity to bid on the contract because it would reduce the prices of the beverages.
Student input was a crucial part of the process. The idea for a change in soft drink providers was brought to the LUCC Student Welfare Committee last year. This was followed by a student survey on Voyager to collect opinions on a soft drink switch.
Though the survey was a helpful guide in the process of switching providers, Pat Niles wishes that more students would take the time to respond to Voyager surveys or attend Student Welfare Committee meetings.
“I feel that we need to communicate better with students,” he stated.
One interesting point revealed itself via the survey – students still wanted a variety of soft drinks from different companies offered at the Viking Grill.
Niles said that the evaluation committee respected that opinion and the Pepsi contract only extends to the vending machines, catering and soft drinks offered in Lucinda’s and Downer Commons.
Niles contacted several purveyors in the area with a request for proposal. Three businesses responded: Coca-Cola, Pepsi Americas, and Dr. Pepper/7Up.
After the companies responded, Niles and two other managers from Dining Services evaluated the proposals using a point system. The proposal with the highest score won the bid – and the winner was Pepsi Americas.
Students have shown a mixed response since the change in soft drink providers, though many have not noticed a difference. Madhuri Vijay did not mind the change. “I don’t have any preferences [between Coke or Pepsi], they all taste more or less the same to me,” said the sophomore.
Jacqui Beduhn felt the same way. “I do not drink pop too often, so I do not pay attention to what I drink when I do,” said Beduhn.
Other students were not pleased with the change in vending machines. Sage resident Jessica Bonsall said, “I don’t like how the price increased and the two soda and juice machines were replaced with one machine.”
Sophomore Travis Fondow hopes for more variety in the beverages offered. “I want to see Wild Cherry Pepsi and Powerade,” he said.
“I am very pleased with what we were able to obtain from the contract,” Niles commented.
Lawrence gained scholarship donations from Pepsi Americas, as well as free installation of the new vending machines.
“Pepsi also installed card readers on the three most popular vending machines,” Niles said. This means that students can use Viking Gold to purchase beverages from some vending machines on campus.
Niles thinks that the new soft drink contract will serve Lawrence well, and hopes that students will continue to provide input on the decisions being made by Dining Services.