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Coke loses Rutgers contract to Pepsi

By Scott Leith
Issue: 5/13/05
Atlanta Journal-Consitution

Rutgers, one of the largest universities in the country, is shifting its beverage business from Coca-Cola to Pepsi.

The 50,000-student New Jersey university will make the change as of June 1, starting a 10-year contract with Pepsi Bottling Group.

Rutgers is one of a number of U.S. college campuses where activists have been trying to oust Coke over allegations about the company's business in Colombia. While the issues were raised in the college's evaluation process for a new beverage contract, spokeswoman Sandra Lanman said PBG won because it made a more lucrative offer than the Coke system, chiefly involving the local unit of Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Enterprises.

"We took the concerns of students very seriously," Lanman said. "However, the decision was made based on the fact that the Pepsi proposal was so much more advantageous."
The decade-long Pepsi deal is worth $17 million to Rutgers.

Ray Rogers, director of a campaign that claims Coke has been complicit in violence against union members in Colombia, still claimed victory.

"We've had a great deal of activism on that campus," Rogers said. "The seriousness of the issue really got their attention."

Coke has repeatedly denied the claims of activists. Lauren Sayeski, a spokeswoman for Coca-Cola Enterprises, said the company offered a "great proposal" but lost out in bidding.

In addition to Rutgers, anti-Coke activists are involved in other ongoing efforts at big schools, notably New York University and the University of Michigan.

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