Unilever announced the sale of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream operations in Israel. Avi Zinger’s American Quality Products already sells Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the United States.
The move will save the company from having to discontinue ice cream sales in Israel.
Unilever announced a deal that will allow its Ben & Jerry’s ice cream business to continue selling in Israel.
The firm said on Wednesday that it has sold the Israeli branch of the ice cream brand to Avi Zinger, whose American Quality Products already sells Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the nation.
Unilever’s move comes after Ben & Jerry’s, which has an independent board, announced last summer that it will cease sales in land seized by Israel since the 1967 Six Day War. Palestinians want the territory for their own state, and supporters have rallied behind a global campaign known as “BDS,” which stands for boycott, divestment, and sanction and encourages people to avoid purchasing from firms operating in the area.
The sale of Unilever to Zinger effectively nullifies the decision made by Ben & Jerry’s independent board last summer. American Quality Products stated that Ben & Jerry’s will continue to be sold under Hebrew and Arabic names throughout the country and occupied territories.
Zinger said “this is the best thing that I could have dreamed for me and my employees.”
Anuradha Mittal, the board chair of Ben & Jerry’s, did not immediately respond to calls for comment. According to corporate sources, the board of directors will likely convene soon to consider the problem. Mittal was thought to be behind the initial decision to leave Israel. Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, Ben & Jerry’s Jewish founders, defended the decision in an op-ed published in The New York Times last summer.
The controversial decision by Ben & Jerry’s to withdraw from sections of Israel last year prompted many states, including Florida, Texas, New Jersey, and Colorado, to begin divesting their shares of Unilever.
Trian Partners “congratulates the Unilever team and Avi Zinger on achieving this new arrangement to maintain Ben & Jerry’s in Israel and ensuring its ice cream remains available to all consumers,” said a spokeswoman for activist investor Nelson Peltz, who is poised to join Unilever’s board next month. Respect and tolerance have won.”
Over the last year, Trian has amassed around 1.5 per cent of the company’s shares. As part of his role as board chair for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which fights antisemitism and the delegitimization of Israel, Peltz was granted a meeting with Unilever CEO Alan Jope late last year.
The Israeli government considers the occupied territories to be part of its economy, and any moves to boycott commerce in the areas are interpreted as targeting the entire country. Stopping ice cream sales in the occupied areas would have effectively terminated sales across Israel.
Following the announcement of Ben & Jerry’s decision last year, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid directed Israeli consulates in the United States to persuade Unilever to rescind the decision.
“The Ben & Jerry’s factory in Israel is a microcosm of the diversity of Israeli society,” said Lapid, who is also Israel’s incoming prime minister, in a statement. “Today’s victory is a victory for all those who know that the struggle against BDS is, first and foremost, a struggle for partnership and dialogue, and against discrimination and hate.”
According to the corporation, American Quality Products directly employs 170 people in Israel, while dairies, transport companies, and others that assist the business employ over 2,000 Jewish and Arab Israelis.
“There was a lot of uncertainty but now we know we’ll be able to stay in business forever,” said Zinger, who has run the company for 35 years.
(Adapted from FT.com)