'Bamba Is Made of Air'; 'They Owe Us Money'

Hatzi Hinam is removing Osem products from its shelves; 'I asked Osem to help us offer sale prices and refused,' says Zaki Shalom, one of the supermarket chain's owners.

Why have Osem products, including popular snack foods Bamba and Bissli, disappeared from Hatzi Hinam's shelves? It depends which side you ask.

"I asked Osem to help us offer sale prices and refused," said Zaki Shalom, one of the supermarket chain's owners. "People should see how much money they make from Bamba, which is made of air. Their prices are outrageous."

Osem differed. "The conflict is over a debt that arose due to Hatzi Hinam not honoring agreements. Osem will start supplying Hatzi Hinam again only after it pays off the debt. There's not an ounce of truth in the claim that the conflict is over consumers or prices," stated the company.

The conflict came to a head yesterday, when Hatzi Hinam yanked all Osem products from its shelves, including ketchup, pasta, Off Tov chicken products and snack foods.

Shalom rejected Osem's claim about a debt. "I don't owe them a shekel," he said. "When I asked them to offer sales on products like Materna [baby formula], soup nuts and pasta, they said no."

He called the manufacturer's recent price cuts meaningless. "All the products whose prices they decided to cut and all the price cuts are nonsense, the consumers can't feel the difference. The moves were intended only to quiet the protest. All I asked was that they run sales. I serve them all year long, and I wanted to offer significant sales in November and December, which traditionally are weak months. So I told them that if they didn't cooperate, I'd take them off the shelves.

Osem is Israel's third-largest food supplier, with 8% of the market.

"It's not a problem to drop Osem, every product has a substitute," said Shalom.

Osem responded: "These arguments are lies. It doesn't have anything to do with sales, but rather with Hatzi Hinam's desire to improve its profitability."