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Amid outcry, major importer freezes price hikes until after the Jewish holidays

Diplomat — which controls many brands including Starkist, Heinz and Skippy — promises deal to supermarket chains that will put off increase in prices until October

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

A shopping cart at the Rami Levy supermarket in Modiin on July 21, 2022. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
A shopping cart at the Rami Levy supermarket in Modiin on July 21, 2022. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

As consumer prices soar across Israel, at least one Israeli company has vowed to freeze its scheduled price hikes until after the Jewish holidays in October.

Diplomat is a top importer and distributor behind brands including Starkist tuna, Kellogg’s products, Oreos, Pringles, Heinz ketchup, Skippy peanut butter and a range of hygiene and cleaning products.

On Sunday evening, after reports of a standoff between Diplomat and Israeli supermarket chains, the importer released a statement saying it would put a hold on price hikes — slated to reach up to 16 percent on some items — on all its products.

“Diplomat has offered in the past few days a deal to all its customers in the supermarket chains that includes a range of promotions so that the customer can continue to enjoy the earlier price through the end of the holidays,” Diplomat said. The company said it encourages competition and “makes many efforts to prevent price increases, but due to inflation and an increase in global inputs, the issue is partially out of our hands.”

The company also defended the planned increases, saying that as an Israeli company that employs around 2,500 workers, including 750 in Israel, it “needs to maintain a minimum level of financial stability in order to ensure the well-being of its employees and shareholders.” It said that supermarket chains that did not agree to its new deal would not receive further product shipments.

Rosh Hashanah begins this year in late September, and through the end of Sukkot and Simchat Torah three weeks later, Israeli families tend to boost their purchasing in order to host large family gatherings celebrating the holidays.

Milk for sale at a Rami Levy supermarket in Jerusalem on July 17, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Fellow import and distribution giants Kimberly Clark Israel — behind brands such as Kleenex, Huggies, and Kotex — and Schestowitz, which distributes products from Oatly, Barilla, Colgate, and Palmolive, also announced price hikes in recent weeks.

With just three months to go until the November 1 national election, issues related to the rising cost of living appear to be setting the agenda as families struggle to make ends meet. As of Monday, while the price of gasoline dropped, electricity soared a whopping 8.6%, while state-subsidized dairy items including milk and yellow cheese rose 4.9%.

In addition, a new public transport payment plan came into effect that lowered prices for some, raised prices for others and made all transport free for those over age 75.

Last week, Arnon Bar-David, chairman of the Histadrut labor federation, called on consumers to boycott importers, including Diplomat, for hiking prices.

“A company that abuses the citizens will have to deal with the consequences of its actions through a consumer boycott that we will implement starting today,” he said.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said Monday that the “global economic crisis” left some price increases inevitable. But he promised that the prices of some products, including fruits and vegetables, would be dropping soon.

“We will continue to fight both the cost of living and those who use this period in a cynical manner to score political points,” he added.

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