Will Ben & Jerry’s be Ben & Jerry’s if its Israel unit’s sale goes through?
Ben & Jerry’s has filed a lawsuit against Unilever, after its parent company last week reached a deal to sell the distribution rights to the brand in Israel to a local licensee.
The ice cream brand said that the decision to sell its interest to Avi Zinger, owner of American Quality Products Ltd. (AQP), was done without consulting Ben & Jerry’s independent board, which is responsible for safeguarding the brand’s image, one largely tied to politically left-leaning clauses such as human rights, social justice and the environment.
Unilever, in a press release to announce the new operating arrangement, said it is acting within its rights as contained in the company’s acquisition agreement of the ice cream brand in 2000. “Ben & Jerry’s and its independent Board were granted rights to take decisions about its social mission, but Unilever reserved primary responsibility for financial and operational decisions and therefore has the right to enter this arrangement.”
CNBC reports that a federal judge denied Ben & Jerry’s request for a temporary injunction against the deal but ordered Unilever to show cause by July 14 as to why a restraining order should not be issued.
Unilever said it made the decision to sell to AQP after talking to stakeholders about the matter, conducting “extensive consultation over several months” with parties including the government of Israel.
Ben & Jerry’s came under attack last year when it decided to end its relationship with AQP pull its products from Palenstinian territories. The brand was condemned by the Israeli government and accused of antisemitism.
The ice cream brand rejected those charges and cited a New York Times op-ed written by co-founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield.
“The company’s stated decision to more fully align its operations with its values is not a rejection of Israel. It is a rejection of Israeli policy, which perpetuates an illegal occupation that is a barrier to peace and violates the basic human rights of the Palestinian people who live under the occupation. As Jewish supporters of the State of Israel, we fundamentally reject the notion that it is anti-Semitic to question the policies of the State of Israel.”
Messrs. Cohen and Greenfield are Jewish.
- Unilever reaches new business arrangement for Ben & Jerry’s in Israel – Unilever
- Ben & Jerry’s sues parent company Unilever over sale of Israeli business – CNBC
- Ben & Jerry’s Will End Sales of Our Ice Cream in the Occupied Palestinian Territory – Ben & Jerry’s
- Ben & Jerry’s is being accused of antisemitism. What is your response. – Ben & Jerry’s
- Guest Essay: We’re Ben and Jerry. Men of Ice Cream, Men of Principle. – NY Times
- Has Ben & Jerry’s gone too far with its stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will Ben & Jerry’s brand independence be diminished if Unilever’s sale to AQP goes through? What will this situation mean for Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s relationship going forward?