Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s is suing parent firm Unilever in a bid to thwart the sale of its business in Israel to a local licensee, arguing the “social integrity” of the brand is at risk.
Unilever announced last week it had sold its interest in Ben & Jerry’s to Isreali licence-holder Avi Zinger, which would allow the ice creams to be sold in shops in the occupied West Bank.
In a lawsuit filed in a district court in New York, Ben & Jerry’s stated an injunction would be “essential to… protect the brand and social integrity Ben & Jerry’s has spent decades building”.
The ice cream brand has said Unilever’s decision was made without the consent of Ben & Jerry’s independent board.
This has gone against a principle that Ben & Jerry’s would be able to protect its founder’s values and reputation, agreed when Unilever snapped up the firm in 2000, the complaint stated.
In July last year, the brand declared it would no longer sell products in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, arguing contuining to do so would be “inconsistent” with its ethos.
“As we said in our statement of 29 June, Unilever had the right to enter this arrangement. The deal has already closed. We do not comment on pending litigation,” a Unilever statement said.
Ben & Jerry’s said its board voted 5-2 to sue, while two Unilever representatives protesting the decision.