Soda Wars Bubble Over in San Francisco

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – In the latest battle in San Francisco’s soda wars, the president of San Francisco State University on Tuesday promised to drop a controversial “pouring rights” contract for the sugary drinks.
     San Francisco State this spring issued a request for proposals for “pouring rights,” to give one company the right to pay to advertise on campus and sell most of the drinks there.
     Coca-Cola and PepsiCo responded, SFSU’s public spokesman Jonathan Morales said.
     Morales said a review committee of students, faculty and staff was evaluating bids from the two soft-drink giants and seeking input from the campus community.
     University President Les Wong stopped the process before a decision had been made and before the university began negotiations with either company, Morales said.
     After students protested, saying the plan was made without their knowledge or input, Wong stopped negotiations.
     “After listening carefully to the concerns and information I received from our students, faculty and staff, I have decided not to move forward with the process of establishing a partnership with a beverage company,” Wong said in a statement.
     He said the decision could cost student programs, scholarships and athletics, and cited reduced state support for public universities in recent years.
     “I remain committed to finding ways to generate additional financial support for our students and programs, and I hope that students will join me in this effort,” Wong said.
     Coca-Cola said in a statement that it is “committed to supporting the students and community of San Francisco State University, and respect their decision.”
     “We will continue to listen to the university community and find ways to collaborate in the future,” Coca-Cola said.
     PepsiCo’s press office did not respond immediately to an email request for comment Tuesday.
     It’s the latest conflict between San Francisco and the soda industry.
     San Francisco voters last year rejected a soda tax backed by City Hall, but in June this year the city passed some of the strictest laws in the country regulating soda and sugary drinks.
     The laws require warning labels on new soda ads in the city, ban soda advertising on city property and prohibit spending city money on soda.
     The American Beverage Association sued San Francisco in Federal Court in July, claiming the laws violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments. That lawsuit is pending.
     The association spent $10 million last year to help defeat the proposed soda tax on the November 2014 ballot.

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