Bidding Begins on Concordia’s Beverage Contract

A vending machine at Concordia University. The university’s exclusive beverage contract with PepsiCo is set to expire in May. Photo Shaun Michaud

As the bidding process on Concordia’s food services contract drew to a close, the university began accepting proposals for a new beverage contract.

Bidding on the university’s food contract ended on March 20. The winning bidder will be selected by a committee composed of one student, an external member and representatives of the Office of the Vice-President of Services, Hospitality Concordia, and the Recreation and Athletics department.

The student-led Concordia Food Coalition (CFC) tried and failed to organize a bid by a consortium of socially-responsible entrepreneurs as an alternative to Chartwells, Sodexo and Aramark, the major cafeteria operators on Canadian university campuses.

Meanwhile, the university opened bidding on the beverage contract on March 16. The deadline to submit a bid, originally March 31, has been extended to April 17.

The beverage contract covers the vending machines on campus and all cold drinks sold in university cafeterias and food outlets. It also affects cold beverages served at conferences and banquets organized by the university.

Concordia expects 25 per cent of the space in vending machines to be reserved for “healthy products,” according to documents posted as part of the bidding process. These can include flavoured and mineral water, carbonated water without sugar, coconut water, pure fruit and vegetable juices, organic iced tea, low- or zero-calorie drinks, and beverages without caffeine. This proportion will be increased by 3 per cent every year.

The university also expects the winning bidder to use vending machines that allow for methods of payment other than cash, such as debit and credit cards or a charge card that students will be able to load money onto.

The beverage contract has been the subject of controversy in the past. In 2010, Concordia renewed its contract with PepsiCo while students held protests and organized petitions demanding that the university not allow bottled water to be sold on campus.

Plain bottled water hasn’t been sold in vending machines at Concordia since May 2012. It will be “removed from all food service locations as of June 1,” according to a post on the university’s website.

In a statement to The Link, CFC coordinator Lauren Aghabozorgi said the bidding process for the beverage contract, like the one for the food contract, is designed for large corporate bidders, leaving little room for students or small business to take part.

“Although [Concordia’s] processes seem to stress equal opportunity for all potential bidders […] the only bidders who can possibly work on such short timelines are those who have prepared for such large-scope contracts ahead of time,” she said, alluding to large corporations like Chartwells and PepsiCo.

“Trying to play on their level is more or less hopeless, whether it be food or beverage contracts. We need a major overhaul in the way things work at Concordia, we need system reform.”