The board of directors of ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s on Tuesday split with parent company Unilever to denounce products sold under the Ben & Jerry’s brand by the company’s Israeli distributor, Blue & White Ice Cream.
“Any products sold by Blue & White Ice Cream Ltd. are uniquely its own and should not be confused with products produced and distributed by Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc.” the Ben & Jerry’s board said in a statement. “Ben & Jerry’s position is clear: the sale of products bearing any Ben & Jerry’s insignia in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is against our values. Such sales are inconsistent with international law, fundamental human rights, and Ben & Jerry’s social mission.”
The board added that Unilever’s sale of their rights to produce their ice cream to Blue & White was made without their permission, Fortune reported.
Unilever, which is based in London, replied on Wednesday to the board, noting that it had sold its Ben & Jerry’s franchise in Israel to Blue & White in June.
“The ownership of the brand is different, but the Ben & Jerry’s product is no different to what’s been enjoyed in Israel for many years,” said the statement.
When Unilever purchased the ice cream maker in 2000, the contractual agreement gave Ben & Jerry’s the right to make decisions related to the company’s social stance but it gave Unilever the power to make final decisions on financial and operations moves.
In July 2021, Ben & Jerry’s announced that it would cease selling products in Judea and Samaria, which is termed the "Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
"We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners," the company said at the time.
They also said they would stay in the rest of Israel “through a different arrangement.”
In July 2022, Unilever announced that it had reached a new arrangement for Ben & Jerry’s in Israel, selling its Ben & Jerry’s business interests in Israel to Avi Zinger, the owner of American Quality Products Ltd (AQP), the current Israel-based licensee.
The new arrangement meant Ben & Jerry’s would be sold under its Hebrew and Arabic names throughout Israel, including Judea and Samaria, under the full ownership of its current licensee.