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It's official: Strauss's cottage cheese is in a marketing meltdown. Supersol, the biggest marketing chain in Israel, has removed the product, which was supposed to compete with Tnuva's selection of cottage cheeses, from its shelves.

However, industry sources said, if Strauss insisted that Supersol continue to market the cheese, Supersol would probably accede, given Strauss's leading position as a supplier of dairy products. Supersol is Strauss's biggest buyer: No less than 18 percent of Strauss's January-September sales were to the supermarket chain.

Strauss sources said on Sunday that the cottage cheese conundrum is a marginal one, and will shortly be resolved.

A Supersol spokesperson declined to comment, saying the chain does not discuss trade issues in the press. The president of Strauss Elite, Erez Vigodman, also refused to comment.

Strauss launched its cottage cheese in November 2002 with great fanfare. Its massive media campaign cost it $1.5 million. A year after the launch, in November 2003, its product had achieved a 12.9 percent share of the cottage cheese market, according to AP Nielsen.

By contrast, the Tara dairy company spent all of $100,000 promoting its cottage cheese - yet by November 2003, its product had achieved a 14.5 percent market share. Tnuva's market share was 71.9 percent.

Cottage cheese is a big business in Israel, with annual sales of between NIS 320 million and NIS 360 million. Strauss only produces one version, 5 percent fat. Tara has two versions, 3 percent and 9 percent, while Tnuva rules the roost with a variety of versions, each with 3 percent, 5 percent or 9 percent fat.