UH’s sponsorship with Coca-Cola provides the exclusive selling and pouring rights to cold drinks within the UH System, but there is no assured renewal when the contract expires next year.
Starting May 1, 2010, the ten-year sponsorship became active and will be valid until April 2020. Under this contract, popular products not owned by Coca-Cola, such as Dr Pepper, Red Bull and Gatorade are not allowed to be sold on campus.
Although these policies may not be common knowledge among students, many said they would appreciate having access to non-Coke drinks.
“I really miss Dr Pepper. I feel like we’re missing out on 23 flavors,” said mechanical engineering senior Eli Smith. “I did not notice that we only have Coke products on campus.”
Dr Pepper, a part of the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, is not allowed to be sold on campus. From the students interviewed, the majority share that Dr Pepper is the product they would most want to see added.
“Even though I’m not a soda girl, I prefer Dr Pepper.” said mechanical engineering freshman Helene Nguyen.
While looking for a cold-drink provider in 2010, the University examined Coca-Cola and any assets they could potentially bring to the table through a Request for Proposal process.
“They were selected as the successful vendor, because their proposal most accurately matched the items outlined in the RFP,” said Interim Executive Director of Auxiliary Services Matt Prasifka.
There are exceptions for specific non-Coke cold drinks at certain fast food chains on campus, according to a blog post from Auxiliary Services.
Exceptions include Chick-Fil-A-brand lemonade, cold coffees and teas from Starbucks and more. Products that do not have a version produced by Coca-Cola, such as milk, are also allowed to be sold by third party companies on campus.
Other than providing drink options, Coca-Cola has taken a part in campus culture by financially engaging and participating in athletic and University sponsored events.
“The sponsorship has impacted the campus in multiple ways,” Prasifka said. “Coke has allocated dollars to multiple scholarship funds. Tastings and other engagement activities are held as pop-ups, as part of campus events and as part of athletic events. In addition, Coke has supported sustainability initiatives on campus.”
As far as options go, some students feel limited by the restricted options that come with having one exclusive cold drink provider. Health junior Quang Nguyen said he dislikes the sponsorship.
Unlike UH, Baylor University’s official cold drink provider does not have 100 percent pouring rights on their campus.
Although PepsiCo Inc. has the official title of Baylor’s exclusive beverage provider, they continue to offer Dr Pepper, according to an article released by Baylor University.
Other universities, such as the University of Texas at Austin do not have a sole drink provider, and offer Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Canteen Vending to students.
Looking forward, the University has not made a decision on future cold drink providers after April 2020.
The RFP process will once again be used to select the sponsorship that will go into place once the current contract becomes null.
Coca-Cola will not be guaranteed to be reselected for exclusive rights through the RFP process. The UH System will release an RFP later this fall to begin the selection process for a new agreement with a beverage provider, Prasifka said.