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The Schmooze

Domestic or Imported? Israeli Supermarkets Locked in Diaper Duel

At first it was about what went in one end, and now it’s about what comes out the other. Israel’s cottage cheese revolution has turned into a diaper war.

With Israeli consumers up in arms over the high price of food and basic necessities, the country’s Finance and Industry and Trade and Labor ministries are pointing fingers at the overly centralized production of animal feed, and at hidden costs of agreements between supermarkets and vendors that end up being passed on to consumers. There is also grumbling about the fact that Israelis pay more for some imported food items, like breakfast cereal, than do consumers for the same products in other Western countries.

But the biggest fuss lately surrounding all this sticker shock has been over disposable baby diapers. Just as supermarket chains recently waged a no-holds-barred price war over cottage cheese to keep shoppers coming in the doors, so are they now taking off their gloves in the fight to attract that captive audience made up of parents of children yet to be potty trained.

The Mega supermarket chain announced that it would begin importing Huggies diapers made by Kimberly-Clark’s factory in Turkey, which ostensibly cost less than Huggies made in Israel. Hogla-Kimberly, the company that makes the diapers in Israel, put out ads saying that Mega’s Turkish diapers are of lesser quality than their Israeli-made counterparts.

To protect babies and their parents from the possibility of messy leaks (and its stores from losing paying customers), Mega sent its Turkish diapers for testing to the Israel Standards Institute to prove Hogla-Kimberly’s claim wrong. It also announced that it would sue Hogla-Kimberly for using Mega’s logo in its campaign to smear the Turkish nappies.

While the titans of Israeli industry and commerce slug it out by filing complicated legal briefs, for all practical purposes, moms and dads are going to be the ones in deep doo-doo judging whether it’s true that nothing hugs like Israeli Huggies.

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