The Terrapin Cola Controversy

Terrapin ColaEver get tired of drinking the same old Coca-Cola or Pepsi? Wish you could drink an alternative cola while displaying your passionate school spirit at the same time? Well, in 1967, you could! Say hello to Terrapin Cola, distributed by University Food Services starting in 1967.

For 15 cents students could buy a 12-ounce can of Terrapin Cola, featuring their own school mascot Testudo. What could be more exciting than that? Well, apparently a lot of things. For one, it was reported that Terrapin Cola made the university a 125% profit. On top of that, Terrapin Cola tasted horrible, no matter how hard students tried to like it.

In an article published by the Diamondback, which can be read in its entirety here, students reacted negatively to the taste of the controversial new product. Students commented that Terrapin Cola tasted like “RC with garlic added,” that it “doesn’t have any oomph,” and finally, that “it’s very good embalming fluid.” In fact, four out of five students agreed that the product did not taste good and that it would be a great idea if only a decent-tasting cola was in the can. Students also stressed their concern about the price, saying that it would “taste a lot better at 10 cents a can” and that the university is “making a huge profit and keeping it for themselves.”

terp cola taste
Students express their distaste for Terrapin Cola

So exactly how much profit was the university making, and where was this profit going? According to two more Diamondback articles referencing the controversy, there was never really as much profit as was originally reported, considering the costs it takes to put the product into the consumer’s hand. Also, the profit made on Terrapin Cola actually benefited students directly and was not stashed in some secret fund as some students believed. As to quality, it was confirmed that Terrapin Cola, despite its nasty taste, did in fact meet federal and state regulations.

It seems like Terrapin Cola was an honest attempt to give students a new, exciting choice, not to intentionally rip them off. Apparently that plan backfires, though, when you fill the can with something that tastes like battery acid.

Maybe “Terrapin Beer” could have been a more popular alternative…

Terp Beer


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