Despite Consumer Boycott, It's Business as Usual for Israel's Candy Giant

Boycott comes after two months of protests outside the homes of the Strauss' executives and a week after photos were published showing the company's products being sold for half price in New Jersey.

A consumer boycott of Strauss may have been declared, but supermarkets aren't yet reporting declining sales of the food manufacturer's products - possibly because Strauss has just launched deep discounts for Purim.

The boycott, declared on Thursday by consumer movement Israel Yekara Lanu ("Dear Israel" ) comes after two months of protests outside the homes of the company's executives and a week after photos were published online showing that Strauss candy bars were selling for half price in New Jersey, compared to their cost in Israel.

Strauss products - Adi Dovrat-Meseritz - February 2012
Adi Dovrat-Meseritz

The official boycott call came after group members met with Strauss Chairwoman Ofra Strauss, who stated that the company did not intend to cut prices any more than it had done in December. Strauss Israel CEO Zion Balas had said the same thing earlier last week.

However, supermarkets are not reporting any effect on sales yet, a survey by TheMarker found.

"The boycott call caught Strauss just as it was launching deep discounts on chocolate products for Purim," said Moti Sela, VP-sales of Co-Op Israel, which runs the Mister Zol chain. "At our stores, for example, these discounts increased sales by tens of percentage points versus the previous week. We're selling three candy bars for NIS 10, and the sale is being funded by Strauss. Next week, the discounts might be even greater - four candy bars for NIS 10."

While the first discount had been planned before the boycott call came, the deeper discount is a result of the protest, said Sela. "I believe this is their response, and we're supposed to finalize the details this week," he said.

The boycott call did not affect sales of other Strauss products either, even though there were no significant discounts, he said.

Consumers aren't likely to stop buying Strauss chocolates anytime soon - these are strong brands, and consumers are accustomed to buying them, he said.

Other supermarket chains also said that any decline in sales of Strauss products was minimal at most. Adi Zim, one of the owners of Kimat Hinam, said sales of Strauss products were down only at the chain's branch in Tel Aviv.

On Friday, many shoppers at the Super-Sol Deal supermarket in Holon said they had heard of the boycott call and supported it, but few had translated it into action.

"Oops, I forgot," said one man, Liad, 25, who was leaving the store with shopping bags that contained, among other things, several of Strauss' Pesek Zman chocolate bars. His girlfriend had asked him to buy candy bars and he went for Strauss products automatically, he said.

Another shopper, Almog, 75, quickly returned a package of Ahla hummus to the shelf when asked if he'd heard about the boycott call. "I didn't even know Ahla was a Strauss product," he said, adding that he was very angry at Strauss, Tnuva and the other major Israeli food manufacturers.

TheMarker's correspondent later found him standing in front of the hummus refrigerator unit. "I'm not sure what to buy," he said. "My wife asked me to buy Ahla hummus, but it's a Strauss product. And I was just told that Tsabar is an Osem product - which also is no good. Maybe I won't buy anything at all."