Despite competition, Green Mountain coffee remains popular with students: Eco-friendly McCullagh tries to unseat the longstanding retailer to no avail

Posted by Adrian Appleman

On Wednesday Sept. 7, McCullagh Coffee set up shop in the Atrium of the Murray-Aikins dining hall, handing out free samples of its product to students. Only a few feet away stood jugs of Green Mountain Coffee, which has been the campus caffeine authority for approximately eight years. After tasting the visiting brand, students then filled out surveys to gauge whether or not the school might see Green Mountain coffee replaced.

The overwhelming response, according to Sharon Foley, supervisor of retail operations for dining services, was that students loved the sustainable packaging of McCullagh, but that Green Mountain was the better coffee.

"It's a better, stronger tasting coffee," said Bill Canney, director of dining services. "Even Sharon, who doesn't drink coffee, thought so."

McCullagh Coffee, centered in Buffalo, came to the college promoting its sustainable "Ecoverde Coffee," which is Rainforest Alliance and Free Trade certified. The representative also showed the students the company's new compostable coffee packaging, which worked as a selling point for most students.

However, as only two blends of the brand's coffee offer this certification, not all of them met the criteria to which students responded so positively.

"We simply want to know what's out there," Foley said. McCullagh Coffee went through a preliminary taste testing over the summer in The Spa and received a response justifying another test when the campus was in full swing.

"We looked to see what they have to offer, but our clientele love Green Mountain," Foley said, before adding, "We listen."

Green Mountain coffee has had a longstanding relationship with the college and is well known for its environmentally conscious initiatives. Its "Newman's Own Coffee" is packaged in renewable material, it distributes using trucks running on bio-deisel fuel and it has a much more substantial selection of Fair Trade Certified and Organic products. Green Mountain calls their approach, "Brewing a Better World."

Students do not hesitate to praise the current provider. "There's no comparison," said Elizabeth Hopkins '15. Sarabelle Wrigley '15 shared similar sentiments. "I really like it. It's a lot better than Starbucks."

Last year, an estimated 23,005 cups of freshly brewed Green Mountain coffee were purchased and consumed by various members of the college community. This number, which does not take into account the thousands of cups consumed at the dining hall, at catered events or the Frappuccinos purchased from dining service retail locations, illustrates why coffee quality and availability is a main concern for Dining Services.

"All things considered, I would double our retail numbers and say we're close to 50,000 cups of coffee per year, easily," Canney said. "That's a lot of coffee."

"It's perfectly acceptable," Lyle Reed '12 said. "I like coffee that is locally-sourced. However, I do associate the brand with gas station coffee. Not that there's anything wrong with that," he added as an afterthought.

In light of the prevalent coffee-consuming culture on campus, Dining Services has addressed all the comments about the year old Library Cafe's deficiencies. It now offers freshly brewed Green Mountain Coffee, in lieu of the environmentally ques-tionable K-cups, along with a whole new array of snacks, sandwiches and fruits.

Also, the hours have been altered to better accommodate campus studying habits, opening from 9 a.m.- noon, 2 p.m.- 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.- 12 a.m. on Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m.- noon. on Fridays, and 8 p.m.- 12 a.m. on Sundays and daily spe-cials are now offered to give more variety on a regular basis.

Soon, all the campus Dining Services retail outlets will also have a napkin suggestion board, just like the one in the Dining Hall, so that concerns and complaints can be more effectively addressed in a time-efficient manner.

"My main thrust this year," said Canney, "is to get Skidmore students, faculty and staff drinking their coffee out of reusable mugs."

Any coffee purchased in a reusable mug, regardless of the size, will be charged as if it were a small coffee. This is to help promote environmentally sound coffee consumption, as well as distribution, which is a high priority of dining services.

Taking a nod from the coffee makers, the dining services is also offering many more perks. "Samplings have seemed to become part of our mantra this year," Canney said. Every day from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., The Spa is offering free samples of its new selection of signature sandwiches and salads.

Along with this, more tastings, much like the McCullagh Coffee display and the Naked Juice Company samplings last Wednesday, are scheduled to take place on Wednesdays throughout the semester. Next week, PepsiCo will be providing free samples, followed the week after by Tasty Bite, which offers ready-to-eat meals that require no cooking.

As for Skidmore's coffee brand, the college house blend is still Green Mountain Coffee. "We have a good working relationship with Green Mountain Coffee," said Canney, "and the brand provides us with the product we need. It's packed-in with variety, and it's eco-friendly. Most importantly, you guys like it. We listen, and you guys are our primary customer."

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