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Aquinas chooses PepsiCo Inc. vending contract

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Story by Elizabeth Walztoni, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of pexels.com

A big change is coming to the way that students hydrate at Aquinas College. For the first time, the College has chosen PepsiCo Inc. instead of Coca-Cola to fulfill its beverage needs: the drinks distributed at campus dining areas, vending machines and special events. Pepsi and other brands owned by the company, such as 7Up, Mountain Dew and Gatorade, will take the place of Coke’s holdings.

This choice was not as sudden as it may appear, but the culmination of nearly a year-long process. Before Coca-Cola’s vending contract came up for renewal in 2018, an interview process of companies began, guided by the Chief Financial Officer at the time and aided by Nick Davidson, athletic director.

Upon the departure of the CFO, Davidson assumed the responsibility of making a contract recommendation to President Quinn. He emphasizes that the choice, and the method of making it, was guided by values as much as economy.

“We wanted the best deal for Aquinas College, which doesn’t just mean money,” Davidson said. Rather, it meant “a good community partner who aligned with our mission.”

In keeping with this ideal, Davidson wanted the entire selection process to be an engaging educational opportunity for students. He met with Student Senate and decided that a suitable option was to hold an open forum where the two companies could make their cases. Students were able to ask questions of representatives and provide feedback to Davidson at the December event.

Many in attendance expressed the sentiment that Pepsi appeared more prepared, both in their forum presentation and in their willingness to partner with the College. They were not alone in this impression; other area colleges who use creative dining services such as Hope, Calvin, and Kalamazoo have already made the switch, which Davidson says is for good reason. He appreciated that Pepsi was open about their weaknesses, presented plans to improve, had a clear vision and demonstrated shared values of sustainability and community.

For example, the company has overarching environmental goals of conserving global water supplies, reducing emissions, implementing sustainable agriculture practices, and reducing packaging waste. On a local level, PepsiCo will offer Aquinas $1,000 in recycling bins, an initiative to give a portion of product revenue back to sustainability, and the opportunity to apply for $10,000 grants. Davidson feels these bonuses provide the opportunity for “student development with a purpose” that he was looking for. A contract decision had to be made regardless, but Pepsi’s incentives added ideological significance to the choice.

Though some students will miss their favorite Coke products, others are looking forward to having new options. Sophomore Samuel Verburg feels that Pepsi offers more “exciting and creative” drinks. Those who seldom drink soda or use vending machines, such as Freshman Emily Bolek, say the change “doesn’t matter at all.”

Whatever your feelings, if you have them at all, the changes immediately visible to students will take place within the next month. A Pepsi product tasting will be held during Wege lunch on Feb. 27 to give a preview of what’s to come. Then, The Corner, The Moose and all vending machines will be switched to Pepsi products over spring break on March 5-9.

2 replies »

  1. This is a rosy painting of a process that was anything but. It was President Quinn, not Davidson who insisted students have a say in the process, beginning with a representative from student senate sitting in on the decision-making process and then, after a rather long exchange with President Quinn during a student senate session, a request to open this decision up to public comment. That session was planned by head of SLE Allie Markland and Student Senate Chair Katharine Reed. The claim that this company has overarching goals for sustainability lacks appropriate context. PepsiCo releases an annual sustainibility report, which i have read in its entirety. Highlights from that report served as the basis for PepsiCo’s presentation. That report contains some wonderful storylines but the plot is thick underneath. By my rough calculations, the sustainability initiatives currently being employed by PepsiCo effect less than 1% of their environmental footprint. That includes the electric vehicles, composting processes, and water recovery processes. They are sexy but they are not having the effect that the company would like to contextualize. When asked for evidence and context of claims, the PepsiCo reps responded with “i do not have that information.” Some recycling bins cannot compensate for the damage that will continue to be done to our natural resources as a direct result of beverage consumption on Aquinas College’s campus.

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