supermarket - Ofer Vaknin - June 17 2011
Israelis are paying far too much for milk products in supermarkets. Photo by Ofer Vaknin
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More than 102,000 people have signed an Internet petition demanding that cottage cheese prices be reduced, as the protest enters its third week.

Consumers were outraged when the price of the cheese, considered a staple foodstuff in Israel, reached as much as NIS 7.50 per 250-gram container. The movement gained strength through Facebook. More than 100,000 people have joined a Facebook group spearheading the protest.

Meanwhile, supermarkets have cut prices to between NIS 4.90 and NIS 5.50 for a cup of the lumpy, white gold.

Super-Sol began offering two tubs for NIS 10 last week, and afterward reported that sales of cottage cheese and "white cheese," a soft, unripened tub cheese, were up as much as 15%. However, the absolute number of customers buying these staple products was down.

Blue Square was one of the last supermarket chains to cut prices. It did so Wednesday, selling cottage and white cheeses for NIS 5.50 per container. Executives had said earlier that they would not slash prices because it would undermine the boycott.

Yet even after prices were cut, customers did not rush to return the cheese to their shopping carts.

"The sales figures still showed a 35% decrease in cottage cheese sales on Thursday," said Blue Square CEO Zeev Vurembrand.

Meanwhile, Rami Levi Shivuk Hashikma cut its prices for a tub of cottage cheese to NIS 4.90, down from NIS 6.50, and reported that sales had increased. "On Thursday and Friday there was a 33% increase in cottage cheese sales compared to those before the protest, but due to the sale price, I'm not profiting from this," said owner Rami Levi.

He promised that his supermarket chain - named, what else, Rami Levi - would be selling Strauss cottage cheese at the reduced price of NIS 4.90 through the end of the year. Cottage cheese from the competing dairies, Tnuva and Tara, would be sold this week for NIS 5.50, down from NIS 6.50 before the protest began.