A Brigham Young University spokeswoman famously explained last year why caffeinated drinks are not sold at Mormonism’s flagship school: It is “not a university or church decision, but made by dining services, based on what our customers want.”
There has not “been a demand for it,” Carri Jenkins said in September 2012, a statement met with guffaws by Coke-guzzling students and faculty at the Provo campus.
Now some enterprising undergrads have decided to test the question of demand.
In November, a group of nine launched “Caffeine on Campus,” a service that hand-delivers Coca-Cola products to anyone on campus who puts in an order through the website — www.caffeineoncampus.com.
“We saw that there was a huge demand and absolutely no market,” Ned Thomas, a senior studying applied mathematics and part of the team behind the caffeine service, told the school’s Daily Universe. “I know personally there have been days where I’ve been studying in the library and really wanted some caffeine or something to drink and had to walk all the way down to the Sinclair on the south side of campus.”
After two weeks, the site had 3,000 hits, Thomas told the student-run paper, a sign of success.
But the young entrepreneurs don’t expect to become millionaires.
“We are limiting our inventory for now as we don’t have the delivering capability to handle many more types of drinks,” they said in an email. The group delivers Dr Pepper, but “no Diet Dr Pepper for now. No one is making money for now. We are putting any profits back into the company to pay back our investments/make further investments.”
For them, it’s mostly “a learning experience and an opportunity to run a business among a small niche market,” the students said, agreeing with Jenkins that “the demand isn’t big enough for BYU Dining Services to bother with changing their whole system.”
They aren’t “pushing for BYU to make changes in what they offer as far as drinks go. Nor are we attempting to change cultural habits. We hope people see us as more of a delivery service with extremely fast deliveries whenever and wherever they want.”
But for a few students “to make a few bucks as a gig on the side,” they said, “it isn’t terrible.”
So far, the Caffeine on Campus team has not had any “pushback from BYU.”
Other student efforts — including an online petition urging the school to offer caffeinated colas on campus — have fallen short. In October, a vending machine in a BYU building accidentally was stocked with such Coke products, but they were quickly discovered and removed.
The caffeine question for Mormons stems from the Utah-based faith’s health code, known as the Word of Wisdom, which bars coffee and tea. For years, some have suggested that the ban included caffeinated colas, but top LDS leaders have taken no official stance against them.
A year ago, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints briefly posted a statement on its website saying that “the church does not prohibit the use of caffeine” and that the health-code reference to “hot drinks” “does not go beyond [tea and coffee].”
A day later, the website wording was slightly softened, saying only that “the church revelation spelling out health practices ... does not mention the use of caffeine.”
Fully caffeinated colas are available at the LDS Church’s Joseph Smith Memorial Building restaurants and in the Lion House Pantry next to the faith’s headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City.
Peggy Fletcher Stack