Thursday, July 5, 2007

U pops the age-old question: Coke or Pepsi?

From the Strib:

With Coke's contract ending, the company will have to fight to defend its control of the campus.

By Jeff Shelman

Last update: July 05, 2007 – 8:44 PM

Coca-Cola has enjoyed exclusive rights to sell its products on the university's campus, after winning the contract from Pepsi-Cola in the mid-1990s. But the contract ends in a little more than a year, and the soft drink giants are gearing up for a rematch.

By the end of this month, the local divisions of Coke and Pepsi are expected to submit proposals as part of the university's food and beverage contract, and a decision will be made in the months that follow. The 1996 contract with Coca-Cola was worth $28 million to the university, and the new contract, which will also include "pouring rights" to the new TCF Bank Stadium, could be even richer.

"We obviously want to get high quality," University President Robert Bruininks said. "We want a lot of choice in this response, and we want good price. "This is a really important contract for us."

The most visible part of the contract has to do with control of the 400-plus drink vending machines and numerous fountain units. This contract -- which is scheduled to run for 10 years and could extend to 16 years -- has the potential to be even more lucrative for the University of Minnesota than the previous deal.

Part of that is because the scope of this contract includes all five campuses. But it's also because the winner will also have a prominent place on scoreboards at TCF Bank Stadium when the on-campus football stadium opens in two years. The company will also receive one suite and eight club seats for the stadium along with the right to use the plaza for "public display or sampling," once a season.

Coca-Cola's corporate practices around the world have come under criticism on a number of campuses. The University of Michigan quit selling the company's products for a while, and protests have occurred at other Big Ten schools, including the University of Illinois and Indiana University.

The University of Minnesota formed a "Coca-Cola working committee" to examine the company's labor practices abroad and, in a December report, found evidence of improper corporate practices "inconclusive."

On the Pepsi side, there have been concerns raised at the university about Dr. Deborah Powell, dean of the medical school, being on the board of directors of PepsiAmericas. Based in Minneapolis, PepsiAmericas handles bottling in part of the United States, Central Europe and the Caribbean.

A different bottling company, Pepsi Bottling Group, will be the unit bidding for the university's business.

Twould be nice if there were some campus discussion on this matter. Don't hold your breath. But as OurLeader states above, a lot of money is involved and we have a stadium to pay for. We wouldn't want little things like corporate bad behavior or conflicts of interest to get in the way of a big contract for BigU, would we?

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