Big Apple supermarket chain Morton Williams has decided to severely curb its sales and marketing of Ben & Jerry ice cream after the popular brand took sides in a long-running Middle East controversy.
Following a board meeting on Monday, Morton Williams Supermarkets resolved to reduce the Ben & Jerry’s products it sells in its 16 stores by 70 percent, The Post has learned.
The supermarket’s board also agreed to stop promoting the ice cream in its weekly circulars, and to demote Ben & Jerry’s to the “least desirable locations” of its freeze aisles, co-owner Avi Kaner, told The Post.
“You’ll be able to find the product, but you’ll have to look for it,” Kaner said.
Morton Williams, which boasts 15 stores in NYC and one in New Jersey, made the move after the maker of Chunky Monkey ice cream on Monday announced that it was freezing sales to “the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” a term that has been used for years to describe the areas occupied by Israel since 1967, namely the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT),” the company said in a statement. “We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.”
In order to withdraw its products from certain territories, the Waterbury, Vermont-based won’t be renewing its licensing agreement with a local franchisee who has distributed its product in Israel since 1987. It will also no longer do business with its current Israel-based manufacturer.
The ice cream maker clarified that it’s not pulling out of Israel, where it will continue to sell ice cream “through a different arrangement.” But Morton Williams’ board remains unimpressed.
In a press release to announce its decision, Morton Williams said: “This action is taken in response to Ben & Jerry’s boycott of Jewish communities that are at the center of a territorial dispute in Israel, including the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem – inhabited by Jews for over 3,000 years.”
Added Kaner: “Of all the places in the world to boycott, Ben & Jerry’s has chosen to target the one Jewish nation in the world.
Kaner said the company is “reaching out to other major retailers and distributors in the hope that they will follow suit.”
Morton & Williams, a family-run business, stopped short of eliminating the brand entirely so as not to alienate all of its customers, Kaner said. But the company hopes the partial boycott will send a “strong message” to Ben & Jerry’s, which is owned, but not controlled, by Unilever.
Ben & Jerry’s was founded in 1978 by Deadhead pals Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who sold to Unilever in 2000 in an unusual deal that continues to give the socially conscious ice cream maker control over its brand integrity and policies.
It’s decision Monday follows a tweetstorm on May 18 that had users pouncing on an announcement about new flavors by calling on the company to end the sale of its ice cream in Israeli settlements in the region.
“After your company ends business with illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine, we can talk about mint ice cream,” one user wrote.
Monday’s announcement created a whole new round of controversy with Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the opposition party in Israel, jumping in the fray.
“Now we know which ice cream NOT to buy,” he tweeted.
On Monday Kaner tweeted: “Please try Häagen-Dazs ice cream – you’ll love it!,” which also elicited heated views from both sides of the Israel-Palestine controversy — as well as the Haagen-Dazs versus Ben & Jerry’s debate.
“Nah I prefer Ben and Jerry,” one user wrote.
With reporting by Will Feuer