USU-Pepsi contract to end in 2024
Blue is a dominant color on campus, but it’s not just because of Utah State University’s school colors. The color is also associated with Pepsi, which has been at USU for nine and a half years.
The $3.5 million contract between USU and PepsiCo Inc., which began in December 2013 and ends in June 2024, is what allows USU to sell Pepsi products, in vending machines and in all restaurants from campus.
These products include Mountain Dew, Aquafina, Gatorade and Sierra Mist.
But there was a time when red ruled the USU. Before Pepsi, the university had a 12-year contract with Coca-Cola. However, this contract differed from the current contract.
According to a previous Statesman article, the Coca-Cola contract offered less money to USU and provided no scholarship money.
In the end, Pepsi had more to offer USU.
The current contract requires USU to exclusively sell Pepsi products to the university, including the Quickstop. Andersen said they weren’t even allowed to give away products other than Pepsi.
In return, Pepsi funds the Aggie Smart Start Scholarship Program for freshmen at USU and the Aggies Thrive Scholarship Program for sophomores.
Student Success Program Coordinator Allison Beck explained that this program helps students financially, but also provides experiences and a mentor along the way.
“Some of the money goes to scholarships, and then the other money goes to the experiences that we provide,” Beck said. “We took students to Bear Lake, we took them ax throwing, we took them ice skating, Sk80s, the ropes course.”
Each year, Pepsi donates $50,000 for the experiences they provide and scholarships for each student.
And Pepsi being the sole funding source for the program, Beck said she doesn’t know what will happen if things change when the contract ends in 2024, but she hopes the program will stick around for a long time.
“We believe the impact of the program goes well beyond the scholarship money itself,” she said.
However, Andersen explained that whichever company the university signs a new contract with, it will be written in the contract that the brand must provide funds for the program before the bidding even begins.
“If you think about it, it’s a really good plan,” Andersen said. “Pepsi puts money into a scholarship for students who go to drink Pepsi and so it’s a win-win.”
But USU doesn’t have to sign a contract with anyone.
In fact, the Desert News reported in 1996, the USU decided not to enter into an exclusive contract with either brand and agreed to a $327,000 deal that gave Pepsi vending machine rights only.
And just like how Andersen chooses to include Aggie Smart Start Scholarship funding in the USU contract, other Utah colleges can tailor their contracts as well.
Brigham Young University began selling soda products in 2017 with a contract with Coca-Cola. However, in a BYU News Q&A, he said the university would not sell energy drinks or hot drinks whether or not Coca-Cola owned them.
The University of Utah has had a contract with Pepsi since 2017. According to an article by the University of Utahduring the contract review, the university negotiated a logo without the blue color, which represents BYU, their rivals.
Other Utah universities, such as Weber State University, Dixie State University, and Utah Valley University, do not contract with any brand.
And although the USU contract won’t end for just over two years, Andersen says he will start preparing for the bidding next summer.
“Anyone can bid on it, but really Pepsi and Coca-Cola are the only players in the market,” he said.
After the RFP is sent, they wait for a response and once it has received one, they will then assess with a committee the total value to the university.
Some students hope that when the bidding returns, USU will make a change.
“I prefer Coke, 100%. Not only is there a huge difference in taste, quality, but it also comes down to preference. But Coke is obviously superior and we should be a school of Coke,” said USU student Zac Bradley.
This is not the first time there have been complaints.
Some turned to usufans.com to share their opinions when the original change was made in 2013.
“I will never take my wife to a game if she can’t get a Diet Coke,” wrote one user who went by the name brownjeans. “I’m serious. We have a deal; I don’t take her to places that don’t serve Diet Coke and she doesn’t take me to parades.
After creating my own poll on Instagram, the results reflected a majority of Coca-Cola fans. Of 153 students who voted, 50% prefer Coca-Cola, 16% prefer Pepsi, and 35% either don’t have a preference or don’t drink soda.
But, when deciding which brand will be best for college, Andersen said that, unfortunately, student preferences have no bearing on the decision.
“At the end of the day, if Coke gets it, a lot of Mountain Dew people are mad. If Pepsi gets it, all the Diet Coke people are mad,” he said.
However, there is hope for Coca-Cola fans.
As noted in the previous Statesman article, the latest Coca-Cola deal allowed Quickstop to sell both brands. And while the current deal doesn’t grant that leniency, Andersen said they are still considering it for the next contract.
Photo illustrated by: Paige Johnson