Three thousand shops in the Middle East have returned Arla’s butter and cheese products to their shelves and 31 of the company’s largest retail customers in Saudi Arabia have said that they will begin to stock Arla’s goods again on Saturday (8 April), Arla announced today.

Arla’s exports to Middle Eastern markets have been hit hard by the Islamic boycott of Danish goods, which was sparked by the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed published in a Danish newspaper. Before the boycott, Arla has supplied 50,000 shops and supermarkets in the region.

“We’re delighted that our largest Saudi customers have decided to lift the boycott,” said executive director Finn Hansen. “We expect the other large supermarkets in the rest of the Middle East to follow.”

The company said that the initial reaction from shoppers has, so far, been positive. “However,” Hansen continued, “we’re fully aware that many Arab consumers remain sceptical about our products, so we plan to adjust certain parts of our marketing.”

In order to regain consumer trust, Arla will sponsor various humanitarian projects in the region and has approached th Danish Red Cross to assist in coordinating the effort. The company also intends to support activities that foster understanding between different cultures and creeds.

“As a global company, we want to help foster the understanding that civilisations can work together. Otherwise we cannot function as a global business,” Hansen said.