Is an anti-Israeli product campaign to blame for Max Brenner’s problems?

Australian Food News /
October 03, 2018  /
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IS the boycott divestment sanctions campaign against Israeli products to blame for the troubles of chocolate and coffee shop chain Max Brenner (Australia)?

One expert commenting since the chain of 37 Australian stores with 600 employees entered voluntary administration seems to think so.

Business trends expert Dr Lauren Rosewarne from The University of Melbourne told today there may be a political factor playing against the business.

Max Brenner was in 1996 founded as a small shop selling handmade chocolates in Ra’anana, Israel, by Max Fichtman and Oded Brenner who combined their names.

The Australian chain is a separate entity to Max Brenner in the US, Israel, Singapore and the Philippines.

Dr Rosewarne said: “While it’s hard to determine whether it was a significant factor in Australia, Max Brenner — with its origins in Israel — has been, at various times, the focus of protests,” she said.

“This was perhaps also a factor in its demise.”

Max Brenner opened in Australia in 1999 – different to today’s landscape dominated by the mega-trend of health and wellbeing, almost a religion of its won with sugar as its devil.

Israeli connection not to blame

Food law expert Joe Lederman of Foodlegal, a law firm specialising in product and marketing compliance and which is also the publisher of Australian Food News, disagreed with Dr Rosewarne’s political analysis.

“I don’t think the Israeli connection has any negative connotations amongst Australian and visiting Asian consumers in Australia,” Mr Lederman said.

He said Max Brenner Australia’s problems were possibly related to some wrong commercial decisions by their management.

But there was a mix of other headwinds.

Greater competition from boutique chocolate makers, such as Godiva.

Better-located competitors, particularly near large international hotels in Sydney and Melbourne catering for high-end international tourists.

Coffee makers and cafes better catering for chocolate consumers while supplying also chocolate gift packs.

“And this also comes at a time when anti-obesity health campaigns are targeting sugary foods and the consumer’s sweet tooth,” Mr Lederman said.

“Overall, consumption of chocolate is possibly also under pressure as its production costs internationally have been rising.

“Nestle in the USA saw the writing on the wall for its high-volume lower-priced chocolate business in conventional retailers such as supermarkets.

“That shift in mass consumption has probably also rubbed off badly on overall sales, including others looking after the chocolate market, even at the premium boutique end.

“This is probably a wake-up call for many food businesses.

“It’s important to keep innovating to stay relevant … business is about the present and the future and brands cannot just rely on their past history,” Lederman said.