Caffeinated soda sales spark conversation

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Ty Mullen
BYU freshman Brandon Hunt fills his first cup with Coke on campus on Sept. 21. (Ty Mullen)

The fight between supply and demand for caffeinated soda at BYU finally ended, more than 60 years after campus dining services officials banned the popular sodas on campus.

BYU Dining Services announced Sept. 21 that it reversed its previous decision to not sell caffeinated beverages on campus.

Now other BYU campuses may follow suit.

Reactions to BYU’s announcement to sell caffeinated soda have shown the underlying battle was never about just caffeine but also cultural versus doctrinal implications as well.

BYU-Hawaii held a meeting on Sept. 22 to discuss the possibility of following in BYU’s footsteps in adding caffeinated sodas to their options, according to Seasider Snackbar and Concessions Manager John Lapenes.

“We are thinking about it, but we will wait and see what happens at (the Provo campus),” Lapenes said.

BYU-Idaho has no immediate plans to change its program to begin selling caffeine on campus, according to BYU-Idaho Food Services Director Todd Huchendorf.

“I have yet to hear anything from students,” Huchendorf said. “There will be those who request it, but I don’t know that the school will change their program.”

BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said there has been a spike in overall drink sales since caffeine began selling on campus Sept. 21.

Jenkins said BYU vending has gone through a large amount of drink supplies but has been able to keep drinks stocked for customers.

“We will also be adding freestyle drink dispensers that will let you choose added flavoring to your drink,” Jenkins said, though no timeline was given as to when the machines will be installed.

Many questions have risen about what caffeinated sodas will be offered at BYU. Jenkins assured the contract BYU has is with Coca-Cola and no one else.

“We do have a limited exception to the contract with Coca-Cola,” Jenkins said. “Dr. Pepper will be sold in the Twilight Zone and Creamery on Ninth because caffeine-free Dr. Pepper was already sold as a limited exception to the contract with Coca-Cola.”

Casey Griffths, BYU assistant professor of religion, said the first group he saw celebrating the news of caffeine sold on campus was religious faculty.

Griffiths said caffeine isn’t healthy, but it isn’t against the Word of Wisdom.

“There is nothing in the doctrine to suggest caffeine is the reason to avoid caffeinated soda,” he said.

“Coffee and tea have caffeine, but that’s not why we avoid it,” Griffiths said. “We don’t drink coffee or tea so that we can obey God’s commandment.”

Griffiths said everyone should be weary of addictive substances and that many things can be addictive.

“Although it isn’t a commandment to stay away from caffeine, we have to be cautious. Don’t let anything that can be addictive overtake your life,” he said.

BYU assistant professor of anthropology Jacob Hickman said caffeine in the church has been a controversy ever since he could remember. Seemingly ‘good members’ were those who refrained from caffeine all together.

“Any cultural or religious community always has contention about things that seemingly mark more sincere insiders versus people who seem to be on the fringe or less faithful,” Hickman said.

Hickman said since the church released the statement on the Word of Wisdom and caffeine, the statement “threw out caffeine as one of those markers,” Hickman said.

Hickman said other gray areas in church beliefs may come into the limelight as a result of BYU selling caffeine.

As vegetarianism may be on the rise and church members are told to eat meat sparingly, open interpretation may result in heated debate, Hickman said.

As the meat consumption may become a larger issue, Hickman said, “These things (gray areas) aren’t going away just because the church said caffeine’s fine.”