Mondelez International has been forced to defend its presence in Russia after reportedly seeing customers in Norway say they will stop stocking its products.
Airline Norwegian Air and railway operator SJ are among those to have halted sales of Mondelez products.
Earlier this year, Ukraine’s National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption issued a list of companies deemed to be “sponsors of war”. The list included Mondelez.
Coop Norge, Norway’s second-largest food retailer, said on Saturday (10 June) it had asked to meet the country’s government to discuss the issue.
Yesterday, Mondelez Norge, the Oreo maker’s subsidiary in Norway, said it would write to government officials to outline its position and propose its own meeting.
“We hope and believe that this [Coop Norge’s request for a meeting] means that the debate focuses on objective criteria,” Chris Callanan, the CEO of Mondelez Norge, said.
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“The fact is that international suppliers who are behind a significant part of the daily goods in Norway still maintain operations in Russia to varying degrees, without breaking sanctions.”
Mondelez owns the Norwegian snacks brand Freia. In its statement, Mondelez Norge said its “parent company, Mondelēz International, complies with all policy decisions and sanctions and will continue to consider necessary adjustments to operations to ensure full compliance”.
Callanan added: “We believe that official policy should be based on the formal sanctions regime and any adjustments to this in the future and that all policy and official guidelines should be based on objective criteria that treat all companies equally.”
Freia products are manufactured at a facility in the Oslo suburb of Rodeløkka.
Mondelez says it does not sell products in Norway that are made in Russia, where it has “maintained a limited operation”.
A spokesperson for Norwegian Air said: “Products from Mondelez will not be sold on board our flights for the time being. We will conduct a full review of all our suppliers.”
SJ confirmed it had pulled the plug on orders from Mondelez. “For reasons of sustainability, we will sell out the items we have, but we will stop all new orders. In Norway, a number of businesses and organizations have already taken this decision, and now SJ Norge has decided the same,” an SJ spokesperson said.
“The background is that Mondelez still has operations in Russia and thus pays tax to the Russian authorities. The Ukrainian authorities have blacklisted businesses that contribute income to the Russian treasury and Mondelez is one of the companies on this list.”
Just Food has asked Coop Norge if it has secured a meeting with the Norwegian government. In Saturday’s statement, the retailer said: “We need advice and clarifications on how the Norwegian authorities want us and Norwegian consumers to deal with companies that are blacklisted by Ukraine.
“Such a clarification is important for equal treatment should other companies appear that supply the Norwegian market and have ties to Russia. Then we will be able to act quickly, knowing that what we are doing is in line with the government’s recommendations – and that the government supports such measures.”
Another major Norwegian retailer, Rema 1000, said it was “in dialogue” with Mondelez.
“Rema 1000 is monitoring the case closely and is in dialogue with our supplier Mondelez. But it is important for us to emphasize that in early 2022 we went through our entire range of products and removed items that were produced in Russia or on Russian raw material. We adhere to, and will at all times comply with, all Norwegian sanctions,” Line Aarnes, director of category and procurement at REMA 1000 Norway, said.
A spokesperson for Norwegian grocer Norgesgruppen said: “We are in dialogue with Mondelez and make thorough, ongoing assessments. This is a complex situation, and it is important not to make hasty decisions, which can have unintended consequences. A boycott always has many and serious consequences, and it can affect innocent people. As a response to Russia’s brutal warfare, the EU has introduced a number of sanctions against Russia, which the Norwegian authorities also support, and we also relate to these sanctions.”
The Norwegian state is an investor in Mondelez through its Oljefondet oil fund. A spokesperson for the fund said: “We have had dialogue with the company, and there are no plans to divest at this point.”
Just Food has approached Mondelez for further comment.
This article was updated on 13 June to include comments from SJ and from Oljefondet.