Pesek Zman - Yoav Rokach via Facebook - 19022012
The incriminating photo Photo by Yoav Rokach via Facebook
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Food manufacturer Strauss came under renewed fire from consumers this weekend. The protest began after a man uploaded a photo to Facebook proving that the company's Pesek Zman candy bars cost more than twice as much in Israel as they do in New Jersey, despite the expenses involved in export and shipping.

The photo shows that a New Jersey branch of Shop Rite was selling 45-gram bars of Pesek Zman for $0.69, or $0.74 after tax, which works out to NIS 2.70. A comparable bar is listed for NIS 6.29 on the website of the Mega supermarket chain.

Facebook users inundated Strauss's Facebook page with scathing messages. One person took a photo at a kosher food store in Britain, showing that Pesek Zman was selling there for 0.65 pounds, or NIS 3.85.

"We want to buy blue and white, but we won't be fools. You've really scored an own goal," one woman wrote.

Strauss declined to respond to the crisis, and repeated its official line: "Strauss, as a manufacturer, is not responsible for setting the final prices that consumers pay. This is set by retailers in Israel and in other countries. We found that the New Jersey Shop Rite decided to sell the candy bars at a sale price of NIS 2.70 (including tax ) due to excess supply. This is not the product's official price. You can find limited sales in Israel as well," the company said.

Consumers didn't buy it and asked Strauss to reveal its wholesale prices in Israel and abroad.

Strauss stated that it recommends Israeli retailers sell its Pesek Zman bars for NIS 5.25 - despite its claim that it is not responsible for setting the final price - and that it charges them NIS 3.50 before any discounts. It refused to say how much it charges abroad.

Local grocery chains rejected Strauss's claims.

"There are many food products that cost more here than in other parts of the world, and the only reason is that when manufacturers see that there's demand, they raise prices," said Rami Levi, owner of discount supermarket chain Rami Levi Shivuk Hashikma. "I recommend that consumers don't buy expensive products just because they saw an advertisement, but rather choose competing goods with better prices."

Another supermarket executive noted that while Strauss regularly runs sales on some of its candies, it doesn't usually offer sales on Pesek Zman, and that the list prices were lower for competing products, such as Snickers and Kinder Bueno.

A senior executive at a competing manufacturer estimated that it cost Strauss less than a shekel to manufacture each Pesek Zman, not including distribution and marketing costs. "Strauss's price of NIS 3.50 is very high, absurd. Strauss definitely could sell the candy for NIS 2 apiece and still make decent profit."

The company has come under fire both from cost-of-living protest activists and from the Antitrust Authority on suspicions of abuse of monopoly status.