Arla Foods is witnessing a wider consumer backlash against its products in the Middle East than the last boycott two years ago, the dairy giant told just-food today (14 March).

Arla said the company's butter and cheese sales had been hit in recent weeks by the revival of a crisis sparked two years ago when a Danish newspaper printed a cartoon depicting the prophet Mohammed.

Last month, after arrests were made in connection with a plot to kill the cartoonist, several Danish newspapers reprinted the cartoons out of solidarity with the artist, which led to calls for a fresh boycott of Danish goods in Muslim countries.

Arla has cut production at its Bislev Dairy in Denmark by 150 tons per week because of falling Middle East orders but the company had dismissed suggestions of a renewed boycott.

However, a company spokesperson told just-food that, this time, the anti-Danish protests were from ordinary people, not only religious leaders.

"It's certainly more difficult to move our Danish goods off the shelves at the moment," she said.

The spokesperson insisted that shipments to the Gulf states represent only three percent of Arla's exports and that there were "no plans" for further cuts in production.