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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Sep. 7, 2007

Changes at the soda fountain, in the cooler

by Anne Krapfl

Dan Goldman

Psychology graduate student Dan Goldman serves himself at the Pepsi fountain in the Union Drive Community Center's C-store. ISU Dining's new beverage contracts have done a little to shake up which brands are offered in what format. Photo by Bob Elbert.

New beverage contracts for ISU Dining this summer mean that soda and juice drinkers on campus may have to alter their buying habits, but in most cases they will be able to find their brand.

ISU Dining's fountain pop contract, affecting dining centers and convenience stores, switched from Coca Cola to Pepsi products, effective in early August. Coke fountain products remain available on campus at the Subway counter in the Memorial Union food court.

And ISU Dining has an 80/20 contract with Coca Cola for the bottled beverages it sells in its cafes and convenience stores. That means 80 percent of the selection is carbonated and non-carbonated products owned by Coke and

20 percent is eight "other" carbonated beverages selected by ISU Dining. Director Nancy Levandowski consulted her annual sales records and picked the best-selling, non-Coke options: regular and diet Pepsi, regular and diet Mountain Dew, regular and diet Dr. Pepper, Sunkist Orange and A&W Cream Soda. She also negotiated for what she called "gotta-have" non-carbonated choices: Red Bull Energy Drink and ISU bottled water.

Both contacts are for five years.

ISU Dining has a third beverage contract (until 2010) for vending machines on campus. It is split between Pepsi Bottling and American Bottling (Dr. Pepper/7-Up). Levandowski said she intends to renew this contract for two years when it's up so that all three beverage contracts end at the same time.

"That would give us better big-picture analysis the next time we have to do this," she said. "And it would ensure that no company ever had exclusivity on campus."

Levandowski also said that catering clients of ISU Dining still may specify - as they have in the past - which brands they want served at their events.

Difficult decision

Levandowski said the fountain contract decision was fairly easy. The Pepsi bid will cost ISU Dining about $23,000 less annually than what Coke bid. The bottled beverage contract, however, caused plenty of angst.

"It was a really, really hard decision," Levandowski said. She involved her management team in developing "pros" and "cons" lists and sought input from her campus advisory board.

"We knew we didn't want exclusivity - we'll never go that way - but we were looking for the best way to package the two contracts and give our customers the best variety of products," she said.

"And while it wasn't completely about money, that did play a role."

ISU Dining will receive $105,000 each of five years from Coke; $25,000 in marketing funds to be used for special student promotions, contests and prizes; and $80,000 in cash. Levandowski said the cash will be used for improvement projects - for example, customer seating not originally in renovation plans for the Hub, or major repairs to a large walk-in freezer - not fully covered in the department's operating budget.

"Without those funds, how do we complete those projects? We go back to the budget and we make some hard choices," Levandowski said. "This lets us do some things that ultimately means we're better serving our customers."

Previously, ISU Dining purchased bottled beverages from four different suppliers. It provided a wide range of brands and sizes, but it created problems with storage and expired products, she said.

Levandowski noted that the contract with Coke means the loss of some popular bottled beverages, including Naked Juice, Gatorade, Lipton teas and Tropicana juices.

But she said she hopes people will try some of the alternatives the Coke contract offers: Odwalla juices, V8 juice products such as Splash and Fusion, and Arizona or Nestea teas. Snapple teas, Vitaminwater and bottled Caribou coffee items soon will be available through Coke, she said.


"We knew we didn't want exclusivity - we'll never go that way - but we were looking for the best way to package the two contracts and give our customers the best variety of products."

Nancy Levandowski