Unilever CEO Hein Schumacher announced on Thursday that the company had experienced a double-digit sales decline in Indonesia in the fourth quarter of last year, which was attributed to geopolitically focused consumer-facing campaigns. The company, which makes household staples like Vaseline, Dove soaps, and Rexona deodorant, said that consumers in predominantly Islamic countries like Indonesia had boycotted Western companies for what they perceived as supporting or having ties to Israel’s war in Gaza.
Similar statements were made by other companies recently about boycotts in overseas countries. McDonald’s said on Monday that it was experiencing “meaningful business impact” in the Middle East due to the war. Yum! Brands, which owns KFC and Pizza Hut, said its chains’ sales were impacted by the conflict in the Middle East region with varying degrees of impact, which dented same-store sales growth in several countries. Starbucks also said its earnings were lower because of similar reasons.
Unilever added that sales declined by 15% in Indonesia during the last three months of 2019. It said that consumers avoided multinational brands due to their perception that these companies supported or had ties to Israel’s war in Gaza. This trend is not limited to Indonesia as many consumers across different countries have been shunning Western brands for similar reasons. The boycotts have become more widespread as tensions escalate between Israel and Palestine and have affected various sectors from food and beverage to retail and hospitality businesses.