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With celebrations for the fifty-eighth anniversary of Israel's independence starting today, Israeli consumers are increasingly buying locally manufactured goods over foreign products.
"Over the past few years, we have seen a growing trend in all industries for the purchase of Israeli manufactured products,", said Meir Barel, director of the "Made in Israel" (Blue-White) committee and deputy director general of the Israel Manufacturers' Association.
The committee was set up in 1994 with the aim of creating preference for Israeli manufactured goods among government institutions, public bodies and the final consumer in Israel and abroad.
"Support the Israeli economy, buy Israeli products and services" is a well-known patriotic slogan within the country but particularly outside of Israel.
"Let us stick to Israeli-made products, it's what a smart country does," called Golda Meir about 30 years ago, when she headed the Public Council to Encourage the Purchase of Israeli Products. Today, there is no restriction on foreign competition or a preference strategy over the origin of products and services.
Barel noted that although patriotic sentiments did have some influence on the buying attitude of the Israeli consumer, it was not the dominant factor.
"Yes, if we offered the choice of the same two products - one local and one foreign - at the same price, the Israeli consumer would buy the local product."
According to surveys conducted by the Manufacturers' Association, there is an absolute preference of locally manufactured food products over foreign products, mainly due to improved quality and competitive pricing. The results of the survey show that 95 percent of all households buy locally manufactured dairy and milk products, an increase of 2% over the past four years. Ninety percent of all Israeli households purchase local meat products, while some 67% buy local beer compared with 60% four years ago and 54% buy local spirits - an increase from 36% four years ago.
"We have been experiencing a slow awakening of the Israeli consumer to the awareness of the quality and price competitiveness of local products. As a result the local industry has been focusing on serving the specific cultural needs of the Israeli consumer - thus creating a competitive edge to foreign products," said Barel.
Foreign products, such as furniture and shoes, he noted, in most cases were not tailored or adapted to the cultural needs of the Israeli customer in terms of size, color and other preferences.
One example of a failure of a foreign product over local product is the global coffee chain Starbuck's, which closed its Israel operations just over two years ago. The global chain, which has been a huge success in almost every market it has tried to penetrate, was a complete failure in Israel. Here, there could be sentiment for a sense of patriotism among Israeli coffee drinkers who supported local chains such as Ilan's, Arcaffe and Aroma. However, even more likely, it seems that adaptation of a local-oriented marketing strategy, underlined by Barel, was missing - Israelis like to have more than a brioche with their coffee, which Starbuck's did not adapt to.
However, where the local industry somehow has been suffering, according to Barel is the trend of government and institutional bodies to recruit foreign companies over local ones.
According to a manufacturers' report, sales of Israeli flags this year were down 10% to 15%, while only 25% to 30% of all Israeli flags sold were Israeli-made. The government entities, the report said, preferred to buy cheap, imported flags rather than purchasing Israeli-made products.
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