Dairy giant Tnuva subject of nationwide boycott

University student unions call on consumers not to buy company products until Rosh Hashana.

Tnuva milk bags 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Tnuva milk bags 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In a new act in the social justice protest movement, several university student unions on Monday began a boycott of dairy giant Tnuva, calling on consumers not to buy its products until Rosh Hashana, at the end of the month.
Participants say the measure is being launched because, in their words, the Tnuva cooperative is the leader of an industry that continuously raises prices, year after year.
“We are calling on you to boycott Tnuva dairy products until the holidays or until they agree to lower prices,” a message said on the group’s Facebook page. As of the beginning of the strike at 6:30 p.m., the Facebook group had nearly 11,000 members.
Addressing Tnuva directly, the message continues, “The company raises prices merely because it can – the time has come for consumers to have their voices heard and to stop buying Tnuva at least until Rosh Hashana!” The message also calls on participants to instead buy from Tnuva’s competitors, including Strauss and Tara. The initiative follows a similar Facebook-driven campaign this summer, in which more than 100,000 people on the social networking site vowed to stop buying cottage cheese for a month, unless prices were lowered.
Itai Gutler, head of the student union at the Hebrew University, said the decision was made to boycott Tnuva because “it controls over 50 percent of the dairy industry and it is a company that, in its conduct in recent years, has symbolized the type of [corporate] behavior that we want to get out of the game in Israel.”
He mentioned in particular what he said was a constant process of raising prices.
“We want them to end this conduct that doesn’t take into account the citizens and the prices they pay,” Gutler said.
He said other dairy-industry leaders, Strauss and Tara, would not be targeted, because “they are less central in the game. It’s not that they are totally fine and only Tnuva does anything wrong, it’s just that Tnuva is the dominant player in the dairy market.”
He also said that after Rosh Hashana, the student unions will consider initiating other boycotts, though they will wait to see the recommendations of the government- appointed Trajtenberg Committee on Social Change before deciding.
In an interview with Army Radio on Monday morning, Tnuva CEO Arik Shor called the protests “unjust” and said it was unfair his company alone was being targeted.
“We are a super-Israeli company, and the solution to this problem cannot fall solely on our shoulders,” he said. “To lower the price of food – which, by the way, is rising dramatically all over the world – we need an all-inclusive process, as Tnuva cannot carry the burden alone.
“It is as if they [the protesters] are playing some sort of Russian roulette and at the last moment we were unlucky. I think that our size and the scope and magnitude of our products caused this. I’m very disappointed at this, because in my opinion there is no company more Israeli than us. We don’t import coffee or cereals from abroad, but instead rely on Israeli agriculture.”
Shor said his company had been attentive to the protests from the beginning, but that any solution to the high cost of food must be a long-term one, with contributions from all links in the chain – including manufacturers, supermarkets and the government.