Milka, Toblerone, Daim and Marabou - these well-known chocolate brands are currently being boycotted in Scandinavia. Partly at least. The reason: They belong to the US food company Mondelez. Despite the war against Ukraine, this is still present in the country of the aggressor: in Russia.
After the war began, a number of Western companies withdrew from Russia or severely restricted their activities there. A few weeks ago, Ukrainian authorities put Mondelez on a list of "international war sponsors" because the US company is still present in Russia, pays taxes there and is thus helping to finance the war. The companies Yves Rocher and Bonduelle are also on the list.
Several large companies from Norway and Sweden as well as state actors have therefore banned popular brands such as Daim, Marabou and the Norwegian brand Freia: The airlines Scandinavian Airlines, Norwegian and Widerøe, the Norwegian Football Association, the Swedish military, the Swedish railway and most recently the furniture giant IKEA.
However, the latter explained that he had long had the intention of selling as many of his own products as possible.
The military asked its suppliers for products from other manufacturers. The army is thus moving "in line" with its usual attitude towards Ukraine, said a spokeswoman with regard to the country attacked by Russia.
The food boycott has now also reached politics. The foreign policy spokesman for the Swedish Liberals demanded that Marabou should no longer call himself purveyor to the royal court. He wrote a letter to the king asking him to depose Marabou because of the business of the owner Mondelez in Russia, the TT news agency reported.
The Swedish court told TT that they hadn't bought any chocolate from Marabou for two years and were checking Marabou as a court purveyor.
Sweden's Finance Minister Elisabeth Svantesson recently said that she personally hesitates to buy Marabou products. "If you support a certain type of product, you should know what you are supporting," she quotes TT as saying. "But everyone - organisations, companies and companies - is absolutely free to decide what to do and what not. That is my basic approach."
The Norwegian government held a meeting with various stakeholders and retail chains on Wednesday, who in turn asked for guidance. The Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry said it is up to businesses and consumers how they use Mondelez products.
Mondelez International reacted to the boycott and activities in Russia with a press release. Since the beginning of the war, "this brutal aggression against Ukraine has been condemned" and the country has been given financial support.
However, like "most other global food and beverage manufacturers", Mondelez continues to supply groceries, "while in Russia we are focused on affordable, long-life products that are a daily staple for people". However, this is not an easy decision, the statement said.
"If we suspended our operations in full, we ran the risk of leaving our operations in full to another party, who could use all the proceeds for their own interests." According to Mondelez, this also means that some of the food supply would be cut off for many people.
The company has scaled back its activities and stopped making new investments, launching new products and spending on advertising in Russia. The result is that significantly fewer products are sold. "We plan to provide the Russian business with an independent supply chain before the end of the year" and to make it self-sufficient.
Nevertheless, Vinzenz Gruber, Mondelez's European boss, sees the group being treated unfairly. The group will be "singled out and treated differently" than competing companies that also continue to sell food and beverages in Russia, as quoted by the Reuters news agency. He described the pressure in Scandinavia as "challenging" and said he was "deeply saddened by what is happening to the brands there".
The head of Mondelez in Norway, Chris Callanan, also told the Norwegian newspaper "VG" that the Freia brand had been made a "scapegoat".
In Ukraine, on the other hand, people are satisfied with the Scandinavian boycott. In a guest article for the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, the Ukrainian anti-corruption agency thanked everyone who boycotted Mondelez.
However, experts question the effectiveness of the boycott. Brand expert Niklas Turner Olovzon told the Swedish newspaper "Dagens Nyheter" that a pan-European boycott was needed to get noticed. Other experts believe that companies and consumers are only "faking" themselves with a boycott.
The first companies have now ended their boycott of Mondelez and its products. These include Norwegian airlines Widerøe and Norwegian. A spokeswoman for Widerøe explained the about-face to the "E24" portal with reference to the government talks: "The decision to take Freia products back on board is the result of the dialogue during yesterday's meeting."
Widerøe adheres to the sanctions list of the Norwegian authorities - and Mondelez and Freia are not on this list. Therefore, passengers will again be offered "a little piece of Norway" when they fly with the airline.
Sources: AFP, Reuters and TT news agencies, Mondelez press release, "Dagens Nyheter", "Aftonbladet", Sveriges Radio, "E24", "VG", SVT