COLUMBIA — A sweetened commission from Coca-Cola is bringing Pepsi to its final drop in Columbia Public Schools as the district switches to an exclusive beverage provider.
Both Pepsi Beverages Co., 114 Business Loop 70 W., and Coca-Cola Bottling Co., 2701 Maguire Blvd., responded to a request from the district for an exclusive beverage vendor. On Sept. 13, the Columbia School Board approved a contract giving Coca-Cola exclusive rights to sell beverages in teachers lounges, in cafeterias and at after-school functions.
Q: How did Pepsi’s bid compare to Coca-Cola’s?
- Coca-Cola's five-year contract is estimated to bring in $461,990 in commission, or about $92,390 per year, while Pepsi's bid was only estimated to bring in $387,297, or about $77,460 per year.
- Those numbers are more than double and triple the $28,000 in commission the district generated under separate contracts.
- Additionally, Coca-Cola will pick up and drop off portable trailers at schools that do not have concession stands.
- If the district had gone with Pepsi, it would have needed to provide a new method of vending snacks and beverages during games at schools without concession stands.
Q: How will the contract affect beverage prices?
- The contract will unify prices across the district.
- Before, the prices varied across the district. A bottle of water at one school might have been more or less expensive at another.
- Prices varied because some buildings had beverage machines merely for convenience, while others used the machines to collect commission.
- Cans will cost 75 cents; bottles will cost $1.25.
Q: What happens to the commission received by the buildings?
- The commission each building receives goes into a "soda fund."
- The commission from many of the machines used by students helps fund extracurricular activities.
- The “soda fund” generated in teachers lounges and offices is used differently from year to year. In the past the money has been donated to help a family in need or to host a fun event for employees.
Q: What will happen to the extra commission the district will receive under the new contract?
- As a whole it’s estimated the district will receive an extra $65,398 per year as result of the contract.
- Buildings will not lose their soda fund. They will continue to receive the same amount of commission they have in past years, plus some more.
- This excess will be divided between the district, the buildings and Kelly Sports Properties. The percentage each group will receive has not yet been negotiated.
The new contract goes into affect Oct. 1. Pepsi vending machines will be moved out of district buildings around that time.
For junior high students accustomed to Pepsi products, Dole juices will give way to Minute Maid, and Dasani will replace Aquafina bottled water. Al Green, general manager at Coca-Cola, said those drinks — along with an assortment of Powerades and Vitaminwaters — will be available at the high schools.
Under the American Beverage Association and National School Beverage Guidelines, carbonated soft drinks cannot be sold during school hours.
“After school for sporting events, we’ll have Coke available in concession stands," Green said. "In lunch lines, it’s all based off the dietitian's request, but it’s all 100 percent orange juice and 100 percent apple juice.”
The contract may alter more than taste and labels. Eventually, packaging options may expand as well. Currently, most schools stock either cans or bottles. The district plans to ask Coca-Cola to offer both containers to all buildings.
Chief Financial Officer Linda Quinley explained that when all buildings use the same vendor, the amount of commission the district receives significantly increases. Coca-Cola was more willing to give back a larger percentage of the profits when it managed all beverage machines in the district. The five-year contract is estimated to bring in $461,990; Pepsi's bid was estimated to generate $387,297.
“I know not everyone will be happy with the choice,” Quinley said. “I personally am a Pepsi drinker. When I was a member of the committee, I had to evaluate and look at the whole, and what was good for the whole was the single contract with Coca-Cola.”
All Pepsi machines will be removed from various buildings throughout the district. Two elementary schools, Douglass High School, the business office and the Center for Responsive Education will make a complete conversion from Pepsi to Coca-Cola.
Before the contract, many buildings sold products from both vendors, and the preference in lounges and offices was usually based on an employee vote. The lack of a contract allowed each building to choose its own machines.
"What we’ve recognized is that there’s value in our numbers combined," Quinley said. "So, when a vendor knows they’re going to have the whole thing, the commissions become much better."
While Athletics Director Bruce Whitesides’ personal preference is Pepsi’s Ocean Spray line, he’s been in support of exclusive rights for quite some time.
“We've been looking toward it for a while,” he said. “We’ve got a superintendent that came from a school district that had a pouring rights agreement, and he felt comfortable moving it ahead.”
The exclusive contract with Coca-Cola may be the first of several new ideas the athletics department will entertain this year. The Kelly Sports Agreement, signed this summer, appointed Kelly Sports Properties to take charge of media materials, printed materials, advertising, food service and pouring rights for the athletics department.