Utah in a niche market for non-caffeinated Barq’s Root Beer


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Did you know that Barq’s Root Beer is caffeinated?

If you didn’t, the BYU Store wants you to know that it is. The store put up a sign to let its customers know that Barq’s contains caffeine. At the beginning of BYU’s winter semester, it was a handwritten sign. Later, it was professionally printed with the logo of the store. No similar signs were found on vending machines, or in the Creamery, even though all the Barq’s Root Beer in cans and bottles are also caffeinated.

Picture of the sign placed in front of the refrigerated soda section in the Wilkinson Center’s BYU Store. (Jenny Goldsberry)

If you thought Barq’s was a non-caffeinated soda, you are also right. In fact, the soda was not originally caffeinated. It became caffeinated after being acquired by Coca Cola, according to Carl Foster, the communications director of Swire Coca-Cola.

“Primarily due to being consistent, Barq’s Root Beer is caffeinated throughout the U.S.,” he said.

Swire Coca-Cola is the arm of Coca Cola in charge of production, sales and distribution for 13 states in the Pacific West, including Arizona, California, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming.

When Barq’s made the switch to a caffeinated formula in mid-2018, BYU took issue to it. At the time, BYU’s policy was to sell exclusively caffeine-free soda.

“BYU Dining stopped selling Barq’s in a bottle prior to the change in the caffeine soda policy,” Dean Wright, the director of dining services at BYU, said. Once the policy changed and campus began selling caffeinated sodas, BYU brought the soda back.

According to Wright, BYU struck a deal with Coca-Cola. “Barq’s Root Beer is not caffeinated in any fountain machine, including the Freestyle machines in the Cougareat,” he said. It’s the bottled formula that has caffeine, and the BYU Store wanted to make that clear.

Utah is one of the only markets for Barq’s caffeine-free formula. According to Foster, the caffeine-free formula is not commonly distributed to the other twelve states within Swire’s division.

“Swire Coca-Cola, USA made the choice to continue distributing a non-caffeinated version of Barq’s Root Beer as a fountain drink for its Utah division,” Foster said, adding that the choice came after BYU Dining decided to stop selling Barq’s.

The sign regarding the bottled formula, then, was only news to Utah locals, as they’ve been drinking non-caffeinated Barq’s Root Beer from the start. Wright admitted that the bottles and cans of root beer “are one of our slowest moving products.”

However, just before Valentine’s day, BYU’s director of communications Carri Jenkins informed The Universe that the sign was taken down.

“It was put up for a short time to clarify for customers what they were buying,” she said. “There was no other reason than this.”

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