Ten demonstrations have been held in front of the homes of Strauss Group executives over the past few months. The protests were scantily attended. BUt while they stuttered on, other injustices by Strauss toward the public came to light. For example, it announced lower prices on dozens of products months ago, but in fact chose to lower prices on only marginal ones such as certain jams.
But no Strauss product has managed to raise such a storm as the Facebook posting of the price of the company's Pesek Zman candy bar in a New Jersey supermarket.
It wasn't the difference of a few shekels that consumers in Israel pay for the same candy bar that drove them crazy. Their anger stemmed from the basic hatred of being had.
Every day we hear about items that are cheaper abroad, but when it comes to something of our own - an Israeli company subsidizing its overseas sales on the back of the Israeli consumer - that is too much. We have been devoted customers of Strauss for years. And what do we get in return?
The Pesek Zman affair bears similarities to the boycott of food company Tnuva's cottage cheese, which became the symbol of last summer's social protests. True, the candy bar is not a basic food staple and doesn't have to be bought every week. But just like cottage cheese, it is a brand that we have grown up with and has become part of the Israeli experience.
Food manufacturers have lots of prepared answers for when they get caught with their pants down, such as "the supermarkets set the prices," or "this is a lone occurence of a specific store on a specific day that sold at a lower price." But when Strauss' financial reports show its profits on its coffee business in Israel are twice those from overseas sales, it is hard not to be irritated by such a response.
The public feels that companies haven't really changed after the protests, but the consumer protests are not over. The new Israeli consumer is signaling to the companies that they are watching and will not accept excuses. And the companies should listen.
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