Supermarket giant offering Haredi customers cheaper prices on many items

Shufersal subsidiary Yesh Chesed, located in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, offers some products at less than half the price of its other outlets

View of Shufersal Deal branch in Modi'in, November 11, 2021.(Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
View of Shufersal Deal branch in Modi'in, November 11, 2021.(Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Israel’s largest supermarket chain, Shufersal, offers significantly cheaper prices for the same products to customers in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods compared to the rest of the country, according to a new investigation.

The company operates a subsidiary, Yesh Chesed, serving a predominantly Haredi clientele, where prices on some items are up to twice as low as at regular Shufersal outlets, Channel 12 news reported Monday evening.

The report comes with the cost of living continuing to soar on the back of high inflation largely triggered by the war in Ukraine and the recovery from COVID, with the price of consumer goods rising 4.9 percent in 2022, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

Recent data from the Israel Democracy Institute think tank shows that the poverty rate in the ultra-Orthodox community is twice as high as among the general population, with nearly half falling below the poverty line.

Both Shufersal and Yesh Chesed operate their own in-house brands. Despite being manufactured by the same factories, the products are sold at significantly varying prices.

At Shufersal, paper towels cost NIS 18.90 ($5.44), according to the report, while at Yesh Chesed they set customers back NIS 14.90. Dishwasher liquid cost NIS 9.90 at Shufersal vs. NIS 4.90 at Yesh Chesed.

People shop for food at Shufersal, on September 21, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Vegetables were also cheaper at Yesh Chesed, with cucumbers selling for 24% less than at Shufersal stores. The largest gap between the two chains was in the price of garbage bags — a difference of 111%.

Shufersal, like other supermarket chains, has raised its prices on multiple occasions over the past year as costs increased for suppliers.

The Channel 12 investigation found that out of 2,200 products, the company raised the price of 860 products in 2022. Over the same time period, Yesh Chesed, which brands itself as a low-cost outlet, raised the prices of only five products. Out of the items monitored in 2022, Shufersal lowered the price of 240 products.

Responding to the report, Shufersal said: “All of our various types of stores are open to everyone. We provide for millions of customers through different retail formats, with different operating costs, products and prices in different neighborhoods.

“We invite the wider public to come and shop at all our varieties of Shufersal stores, including in the Yesh Chesed network,” it added.

In 2021, Shufersal faced a public outcry over a secondary website it operated that offered cheaper products to ultra-Orthodox online consumers.

A Channel 12 report at the time found that goods offered on Shufersal Online, a grocery delivery service run by the chain, were more expensive than the same products found on its secondary website aimed at ultra-Orthodox consumers, which carried only products with strict “mehadrin” kosher certification.

The Shufersal CEO at the time, Itzhak Aberkohen, agreed to shut down the “mehadrin” website following the public backlash.

Grocery prices are a perennial concern for many in Israel, where the cost of living is often rated as a top issue for voters, trumping even security matters. Major protests have been sparked by accusations of price gouging on seemingly mundane products, such as cottage cheese and pudding cups.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report

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