General Mills confirmed Tuesday that despite claims made by outside groups, Pillsbury products will continue to be sold in Israel once the company’s dough business exits Israel.
The announcement comes a week after JLens, an investor network that explores a Jewish lens on impact investing, put Golden Valley-based General Mills on its do-not-invest list. The move isn’t enough to get General Mills off that list, according to JLens founder and CEO Julie Hammerman.
“We reject false claims that this decision was made in response to outside pressure or for political reasons,” General Mills said in a statement. “Our global business strategy drove this decision. We look forward to bringing more products to Israeli consumers which will be distributed without restriction and in full alignment with our values of non-discrimination.
“General Mills is committed to continuing to serve the Israel market with our global brands, including Pillsbury. Sales of Pillsbury products in Israel will continue after we exit the dough business next year.”
Hammerman said that General Mills was “acquiescing to [Boycott, Divest and Sanction] and making misleading statements to the Jewish community and investors,” of which JLens had been one. She said there are key questions that General Mills needs to answer before JLens removes them from the do-not-invest list.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction. But still, there’s a lot unknown and we’re skeptical given the lack of transparency and honesty to date,” she said. “We want to know, the Pillsbury branded products that will continue to be sold in Israel. We want to know the Pillsbury branded products that are currently sold in Israel and the sales breakdown. And we’d like to know where Pillsbury refrigerated dough is sold in the world, including in the Middle East.”
Hammerman said a lot of the pressure building against General Mills and the Pillsbury brand in Israel, starting with the food giant being listed on the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights list of companies illegally doing business in Israeli settlements.
“There’s been a two-year controversy built up around Pillsbury in Israel,” Hammerman said. “Between the Pillsbury family pressure, the BDS campaign, the UN Human Rights blacklist. There’s been mounting pressure on General Mills with respect to the Pillsbury brand in Israel.”
This past May, General Mills sold its stake in a joint venture in Israel, which principally marketed dough products under the Pillsbury brand. The company said that divestiture was part of a restructuring of its portfolio around the world, including the announcement of the proposed sale of a European dough business.
In filings made to the Securities and Exchange Commission, General Mills said that in the 2022 fiscal year, it announced or closed “seven transactions that are expected to increase the company’s top- and bottom-line growth profile over the long term,” including “a series of divestitures of dough in Europe and Israel.”
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas worked closely with General Mills, along with multiple national Jewish organizations, and in a statement, called the company’s announcement a positive one.
“The following statement is another clear rejection of the BDS movement by General Mills,” executive director Steve Hunegs said. “Claims to the contrary are unfortunate and inaccurate.”