Ben & Jerry’s says Unilever has frozen driver salaries


Ben & Jerry’s independent board of directors said its parent company, Unilever Plc, with which it is engaged in a dispute over the sale of its Israeli company, had frozen its executive salaries in July as a pressure tactic ahead of mediation on the matter. Reuters reports.

The Cherry Garcia ice cream maker surpassed $1 billion in sales for the first time last year, becoming one of 13 Unilever brands to reach such scale, the board said.

Ben & Jerry’s sued Unilever, which has owned the Burlington, Vermont-based company since 2000, on July 5 for trying to stop the sale of its company in Israel to local licensee Avi Zinger.

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Ben & Jerry’s said last year it no longer wanted to sell its products in the occupied West Bank because it was “inconsistent” with its values, prompting Unilever to make the sale. The deal with Zinger made the ice cream available to all consumers in Israel and the occupied West Bank.

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“This decision for us to go to court is because of the sale of Unilever without our input, which is a clear violation of the letter and spirit of our original acquisition agreement with Unilever,” said CEO Anuradha Mittal in an interview with Reuters. “If Unilever is willing to so blatantly violate the agreement that has governed the parties’ behavior for more than two decades, then we believe it will not stop at this issue.”

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“If left unchecked, Unilever’s actions will undermine our social mission and vital brand integrity, posing a threat to our reputation and ultimately to our business as a whole,” she added.

Unilever did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever tried to reach an out-of-court deal last month but told a federal court on Monday that they had failed to do so.

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On Monday, August 8, there will be a hearing on Ben & Jerry’s request to block the sale.

The battle has tested how far Unilever is willing to go to give its brands the freedom to carry out social missions.

Unilever has more than 400 brands, including Dove soap, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Knorr soup and Vaseline skin lotion.