Israeli Supermarkets Rush to Sell Strauss Candy in Wake of Consumer Unrest

Protest starts when a consumer uploaded a photo to Facebook showing the company's Pesek Zman candy bars cost more than twice as much in Israel as they do in New Jersey.

Supermarket chains up and down the land scurried on Monday to slash the price of Strauss Group candy bars as a consumer protest ratcheted up against the beleaguered food manufacturer. Israel's largest supermarket chain, Super-Sol, moved up its Purim holiday candy sale on Strauss chocolates. Mega, ABA Victory and Rami Levi Shivuk Hashikma lost no time announcing special deals for the bars, including Pesek Zman, the favorite that triggered the latest bout of consumer-corporation spatting.

Strauss was the focus of a consumer protest starting late last week when a consumer uploaded a photo to Facebook showing that the company's Pesek Zman candy bars cost more than twice as much in Israel as they do in New Jersey, despite the expenses involved in export and shipping to the United States.

Dear Israel Strauss - Tomer Appelbaum - 21022012
Tomer Appelbaum

The protest is scheduled to continue with a demonstration outside the Tel Aviv home of Ofra Strauss, the Strauss Group's chairwoman, on Thursday evening. Strauss herself returned from New York last night to discuss the developments with top company executives.

On Monday, Super-Sol started selling three Twist or Taami bars made by Strauss for NIS 11 at its discount Super-Sol Deal stores, and for NIS 13 at its more upscale Super-Sol Sheli stores. All Super-Sol outlets are selling three Pesek Zman bars for NIS 12.

Rami Levi is selling Pesek Zman and Twist bars for NIS 1.49 apiece, if the shopper buys at least NIS 150 worth of goods. From next week that price will apply no matter how much the shopper buys.

Supermarkets stock chocolate gifts for the Purim holiday, which this year falls on March 8. The closer the holiday comes, the bigger the discounts on candy will be.

The photo that sparked the chocolate-bar protest shows that a New Jersey branch of Shop Rite was selling 45-gram bars of Pesek Zman for $0.74 after tax, which works out to NIS 2.70. A comparable bar is listed for NIS 6.29 on the Mega chain's website.

Mega, Super-Sol's biggest rival, started its own Strauss candy sale on Monday, which will continue until Purim. Mega is offering two free candy bars with the purchase of three others - but only for members of its customer loyalty club, and only if they spend at least NIS 50.

Not all supermarket chains are lending Strauss' a helping hand. The ABA Victory heavy-discount chain has chosen not to offer any special sales on Strauss candy.

"Strauss has not given us any deal on Pesek Zman," said Eyal Ravid, one of the chain's owners. "Their other candy bars have been selling at a price of four for NIS 11 since before the protest, and this will continue until March 9. Other than that, we will not have any special sales," said Ravid.

Super-Sol is promising bigger price cuts as Purim nears.

Thursday's protest has been organized by the Yisrael Yekara Li ("Dear Israel" ) movement. "We will try to get across the message that Ofra Strauss still has not understood. We will increase our actions in front of supermarkets and distribute flyers," said Eyal Ofer of the movement. He said almost 10,000 people have joined their Facebook group protesting Strauss' prices.

Four mothers came to the company's headquarters to present Ofra Strauss with a letter calling on the company to immediately lower prices.

The company's director of communications Osnat Golan met them in private for 15 minutes. After the meeting, the mothers said they were told that Strauss is not in Israel at the moment, and said the company asked them not to discuss the contents of the meeting with the press.

The company said it has never asked anyone not to speak to the press.

"Ofra Strauss' charm does not work on us any more," said Batsheva Alkobi of Ramat Gan, one of the mothers. "A few months ago we protested outside her house and she came out and sat with us for two hours. But that was a different time, exactly when the tent [protests] on Rothschild [Boulevard in Tel Aviv] started, and it was something new... We can't be bought off with a smile any more."