Israeli food manufacturer Strauss is trying to battle the bad press, and potential boycott, over the disparity in prices between the company's products in Israel, where they are made, and in the United States. Last week, a Facebook page posted prices of some Strauss-made products, including the popular Elite Pesek Zman candy bar, showing them on sale in a New Jersey supermarket at about half the price they are sold for in Israel.
The Facebook page spread virally among Internet users in Israel and reflecting the consumer action against cottage cheese last summer, several consumer groups declared that they would begin boycotting Strauss products beginning March 1.
If the boycott comes to pass, it could significantly dent the company's profits, because it would come just days before Purim, when Israelis traditionally exchange food gifts (Misloach Manot), most usually with the candy and snacks that Strauss' Elite unit is known for.
As a result, the company has been attempting to proactively avoid a boycott. Earlier this week, the company cut prices on dozens of products, and on Wednesday, Strauss CEO Zion Balas released a video in which he addressed the price issue. The video, which was broadcast on Israeli TV stations and posted on YouTube, claims that overall, Strauss products are far cheaper in Israel than in the U.S.
“Most of the products we sell in the U.S. are more expensive than they are in Israel, and only a very few, like the Pesek Zman candy bar, are cheaper,” Balas said. “Overall Strauss product prices in Israel are 20% cheaper than they are abroad.
“I am so convinced of this that I invite Israelis who live in and visit the U.S. to send us photos and receipts of Strauss products that they buy, so that Israeli consumers can see the facts,” Balas added.
Consumer groups were not convinced. In an interview, Bat Sheva Alkoby, one of the chief organizers of the upcoming boycott, said that they were “very disappointed with Balas' response. He tried to claim that the lower prices in the U.S. were due to a sale or special deal, but we all know that is not the case. We are still calling for a boycott of Strauss Elite products,” she said.
On Thursday, a group of consumer activists are due to meet with company chairperson Ofra Strauss.