More than three years have passed since BYU Dining Services announced that caffeinated beverages would be officially sold on campus. The announcement was met with mixed reviews — many students were excited about the change and bought drinks immediately, while others felt that the rule should stay in place.
Though caffeine on campus was exciting when it was brand new, caffeinated drinks are the norm at BYU now. Are BYU students still excited to sit down with a Dr Pepper? Or do they yearn to “Choose the Sprite?”
In a BYU facility newsletter from December 2019, Vice President of BYU Physical Facilities Ole Smith shared his experience trying to add caffeinated Coke products to a staff drink machine.
“Soon after Coke was brought back onto campus, I asked Dining Services if they had seen an increase in the amount of soda consumed,” Smith said. “The answer wasn’t surprising. Sales were up nearly 50%. I asked the same question a few months later and was told that overall sales of soda were still up significantly from before the announcement.”
Smith said the dynamic of soda sales had shifted dramatically.
“All other soda sales were down from the pre-Coke announcement and yet overall soda sales were up considerably,” Smith said. “The introduction of Coke was the driver that pushed sales to record levels.”
Because of the high demand and higher prices of caffeinated beverages, Smith was not able to add the soda to staff drinking machines.
When asked about the current sales numbers for caffeinated sodas at BYU, Director of Dining Services, Dean Wright, did not talk about caffeine.
“While it is our policy to not share information on any of our vendors/partners sales, I can say that the two largest beverages sold on campus are water and chocolate milk,” Wright said.
BYU has always had confidentiality agreements with its vendors regarding specific sales numbers. When asked about the general trends of caffeinated soda on campus, Wright didn’t answer the question but did share information on non-caffeinated, healthy drinks.
“Overall Dining Services has seen the greatest growth in beverage sales in the healthy and non-carbonated segment,” Wright said. “This is right in line with what is happening on the national level. You will see that in the immediate future, we will be introducing 11 new products of which eight are in the non-sparkling, healthier category. Only three are carbonated.”
When asked about caffeinated drink trends on campus, University Communications also did not provide information.
Despite not receiving official data on caffeine sales from BYU, the Universe was able to conduct several observations to see which drinks students generally choose from the drink machines in the Cougareat. Reporters stood near the drink machines in the Cougareat and recorded how many times each soda was chosen.
Each type of soda was sorted into one of eleven groups. All diet sodas (Sprite Zero, Diet Coke) and their original counterparts (Sprite, Coca-Cola) were placed in the same soda category to make data collection simpler.
Dr Pepper, Mello Yello and Coca-Cola are the three soda groups that contain caffeine. While Barq’s bottled drinks usually contain caffeine, fountain soda Barq’s does not.
Dr Pepper turned out to be the favorite group of those observed, with Coca-Cola following closely behind. For all three observations, about 57% of drinks served in the Cougareat were caffeinated.
Student opinions varied on social media. The Daily Universe held a tournament bracket on its Instagram and Twitter accounts. Two drinks would go head-to-head and the one with the most votes moved on to the next round.
After 502 votes were made on Instagram, water beat Dr Pepper 254-to-248. Water beat Dr. Pepper on the Twitter bracket as well.
While these observations cannot account for all drink purchases made on BYU property, they do suggest that caffeine is in high demand even after nearly three years it has been on campus. Whether students prefer caffeinated drinks to non-caffeinated ones would take further study.