The debate is timeless, based entirely on personal preference, and never-ending and yet St. Mary’s students have come down decisively on one side: it’s Coke, not Pepsi. When the College’s contract with Pepsi expired, Bon Appetit decided to make the switchback from serving Pepsi products to Coke products in the Great Room, at the Upper Deck, and at the Lewis Quad Grab and Go based largely on student feedback.
Joel Blice, Director of Operations for Bon Appetit, cited three main reasons for the switch back to Coke from Pepsi, which the college has served for the past couple of years. First, the Office of Residence Life had done a survey when the college was beginning the bidding process and the majority of the responses were in favor of Coke products. Student feedback in favor of Coke was large, Blice said, and “anytime we make a big change [it’s] always in response to student feedback [and] student requests.”
Blice also said that beverages at The Pub contributed to Bon Appetit’s change in the Great Room. When The Pub opened, Coke products were being served for use as mixers in drinks such as rum and Coke, and the response to that was extremely positive, Blice said. Though The Pub no longer serves alcohol on a regular basis, students still reacted favorably to having Coke there. With such a positive response at The Pub, Bon Appetit decided to consider changing the drinks they served at the locations. Finally, the decision to switch was solidified because Coke manufactures Minute Maid products which are a “high quality juice,” Blice said.
With the decision, Blice said he’s heard a lot of questions and comments, as well as feedback from Residence Life, and overall, the response has been favorable. The focus groups earlier in the year preferred Coke, and as Blice said, “certainly it’s in our best interest to … please the students and faculty.”
The only negative comments Blice has received regard Mountain Dew, which is manufactured by Pepsi. Coke’s version of the product is Mello Yello which Blice said is identical to Mountain Dew; however he said people tend to be “hung up on the brand name.”
Additionally, the response to serving Diet Coke and Coke Zero is overwhelmingly favorable, both at the Great Room and The Pub.
Since vendors sell the two major competing products to institutions, prices differences are almost negligible, according to both Blice and Patrick Hunt, Procurement Officer for the Business Office. Hunt, who oversees but does not mandate where Bon Appetit makes their purchases, reiterated both that a number of students asked for Coke products in the Great Room and that “the response to having Coke at The Pub was very large; students liked it there.”
Bon Appetit approached Hunt in the fall with the option to change products and after research into student preferences decided to make the switch. Hunt had no objections, since the change “will not impact us negatively.”
Blice is pleased with the decision: “When the switch, which is what the majority wanted, [also] would give us access to [Minute Maid]… this is great on both counts.”
For the die-hard Pepsi devotees, the soft-drink can still be purchased at the Grind, though the vending machines are all Coke.