A spokesperson for Arla told just-food today (24 March) that although there have been calls for a Danish boycott of goods as the company attempts to rebuild its business in the Middle East, it doesn’t expect consumers in its home market to reject Arla’s products en mass.

Arla sales in Middle Eastern markets collapsed after a boycott of Danish products was launched in response to cartoons published in a Danish newspaper depicting the prophet Mohammad. However, in attempting to distance itself from the adverts and rebuild its markets in the Middle East, Arla has come under fire from some quarters at home for not defending free speech.

“This whole issue about the Mohammad cartoons has become a heated political issue in Denmark,” Astrid Nielson, head of corporate communications, told just-food. “There is a very outspoken debate underway, with strong sentiments on both sides.”

The calls for a boycott of Arla originate from the youth membership of a political party on the far right, she explained. “The young members of Dansk Folke Parte have suggested a boycott of our merchandise. They are a right wing party and one of their core messages is anti-immigration.”

Although the views of Dansk Folke Parte may not reflect the majority opinion in Denmark, Arla is a company stuck between a rock and a hard place. “Our business has suffered in the Middle East because of the publication of cartoons that was entirely unrelated to us. When we try to repair some of the damage done, we are criticised in Denmark,” Nielson observed.