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Search continues for new
beverage contract on campus

By Mike New
The Daily Targum - University
Issue: 3/25/05

As the May deadline for a new exclusive beverage contract at the University draws nearer, wheels are beginning to turn.

On March 1, members of the Exclusive Beverage Committee met with representatives of the University Senate, the American Association of University Professors, Lori Billingsley, the director of Issues Communications for The Coca-Cola Company and Pablo Largacha, the public affairs manager of Coca-Cola Servicios de Colombia.

During this meeting, they discussed concerns many here at the University have had over alleged human rights violations in Columbia, among other issues, according to the committee's most recent update.

On March 16, the Exclusive Beverage Committee mailed request for proposals, or RFPs, to 10 companies, including the Pepsi Bottling Group, Coca-Cola USA Operations and the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of New York Inc.

Coca-Cola USA is the parent company that produces the syrup as well as markets the beverages, while the bottling company is an array of corporate and private companies that buy the syrup and turn it into the item, according to Charles Sams, who is the director of Dining Services.

Snapple Distributor Inc., Dr. Pepper/Seven Up Inc., Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages, National Beverage Corp., The Monarch Beverage Company, Big Red, Inc. and Cott Corporation also received RFPs.

Sams, who also sits on the committee, said it was a fairly simple list to formulate.

"[They're] the 10 largest beverage companies in the country," Sams said. "The company must be able to handle student dining, vending, pumps, carbonators, as well as dozens and dozens of pieces of piping."

The companies now have until approximately the third week in April to read and evaluate the RFP and to make their decision as to whether pursue the contract.

The University has been in an exclusive contract with Coca-Cola Company for the past 10 years, which allowed all beverages distributed in dining halls or sold on campus to only be Coca-Cola products.

In August, the University gave itself a 10-month extension, which will expire in May.

On Feb. 24, the committee met with members of the public to hear these concerns in the Douglass College Center.

With Coca-Cola allegedly involved in the murder and torture of bottle workers in Columbia who tried to unionize, many students and several faculty members brought up moral concerns to the committee.

Besides taking issue with Coca-Cola, one problem some students had regarded the complete exclusivity of the contract, which prevented the sale of University developed drinks.

But the committee apparently took this into consideration, as the developmental language of the draft of the RFP now has an exclusion to allow the on-campus sale of future or current beverage products developed at the University, the update said.

The requests also included philosophical language pertaining to the University's ideals and technical language dealing with the physical requirements, Sams said.

Ten years ago, when the current contract was written, the University sent only three requests, of which only Pepsi and Coca-Cola responded. This time, Sams said he's not sure how the companies will respond.

"It's a different decade," Sams said. "It's really a wait-and-see kind of thing."

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