Will Ben & Jerry’s be Ben & Jerry’s if its Israel unit’s sale goes through?

Discussion
Sources: Ben & Jerry’s
Jul 06, 2022

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.

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?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"If the founders wanted to maintain their social branding they shouldn’t have sold out to a large publicly-traded CPG. "
"It does seem that Ben & Jerry poked the bear and the bear poked back."
"This will now come down to contract law as the solution to this case lies in the agreement between Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever."

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6 Comments on "Will Ben & Jerry’s be Ben & Jerry’s if its Israel unit’s sale goes through?"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

This will now come down to contract law as the solution to this case lies in the agreement between Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever. The former claim a right to determine the social mission of the brand, the latter claim a right to operational control and decision making. However the whole situation shows the naivete of Unilever for agreeing to buy a brand over which it could not exercise complete control. As for Ben & Jerry – perhaps they should have remained independent rather than selling out to Unilever.

Jeff Weidauer
BrainTrust

When Ben & Jerry’s sold to Unilever it effectively changed the mission of the company. If the founders wanted to maintain their social branding they shouldn’t have sold out to a large publicly-traded CPG. Profits will always take precedence over causes.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

I don’t believe I am jumping to conclusions nor being cynical. It does seem that Ben & Jerry poked the bear and the bear poked back. Assuredly, if the agreement goes through, the ice cream will again be available in the occupied territories.

Clearly, with Ben & Jerry’s position in Israel, the business is worth more to AQP than to Unilever. Also, consider how it might affect all the other Unilever products in Israel. Certainly Unilever does not want to get involved in a headline-making social responsibility issue.

Al McClain
Staff

Ben & Jerry’s went for the money 22 years ago, so this is a little late. This is what predictably happens when companies with competing goals merge and each wants its own way.

Joel Rubinson
BrainTrust

Ben and Jerry (the people) declaring they are supporters of Israel is disingenuous. Behavior speaks louder than words. Their behavior regarding Jewish settlements and hiring Linda Sarsour as a spokesperson speaks much louder than any press release. Furthermore, I assume Unilever bought a brand in a way that gave them control, not just a profit stream so they can call the shots. However that is for the lawyers to decide.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Ben & Jerry’s has filed a lawsuit against Unilever, after its parent company(emphasis added)
Brand “independence” … seriously? Apparently they’re independent as long as they’re allowed to be … which is to say “not really.”

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"If the founders wanted to maintain their social branding they shouldn’t have sold out to a large publicly-traded CPG. "
"It does seem that Ben & Jerry poked the bear and the bear poked back."
"This will now come down to contract law as the solution to this case lies in the agreement between Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever."

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