RUSSIA – Mondelēz, an American multinational confectionery, food, holding, beverage and snack food company, has implemented changes in its profitable Russian business, appointing a new general manager, according to internal company memos obtained by Reuters.  

The move comes after months of boycotts, shareholder pressure, and activism urging Mondelēz to exit Russia entirely. While the company ceased advertising in the country, it continues to operate in Russia, maintaining three factories and selling products like Milka chocolate. 

In one internal memo, Europe president Vince Gruber informed staff about the appointment of a new general manager for the standalone organization in Russia.  

However, the memo also revealed that the Russia general manager would report to another executive who, in turn, reports to Gruber. Critics argue that this arrangement may not satisfy those calling for Mondelez to leave Russia. 

“In the law, we use the expression ‘a distinction without a difference.’ This is an attempted workaround that is not very meaningful,” commented Nell Minow, a corporate governance expert and vice chair of ValueEdge Advisors. “These are cookies, and there really is no excuse.” 

In response to Reuters, Mondelēz stated that “effective at year-end 2023, we have stood up our local business to operate more independently.”  

The company emphasized that products sold in Russia are now produced and distributed locally, with no imports of finished goods from Europe and no exports from Russia into Europe. 

The annual report released in February acknowledged the risks posed by the war in Ukraine, stating it could lead to loss of life, physical damage, and destruction of property.  

Mondelēz also anticipated questions or negative scrutiny about its operations in Russia despite its role as a food company and its public statements on Ukraine and Russia. 

While major global brands like McDonald’s and Starbucks left Russia after the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Mondelēz rivals, including Nestle, continue to operate in the country.  

Mondelēz defended its Russian business, citing the provision of “shelf-stable products that are daily staples for ordinary people” and the importance of not cutting off the food supply for families affected by the war. 

The company’s executive, Vince Gruber, informed staff in a January 31 memo about the reorganization of the European region into 14 “commercial units.”  

A subsequent memo on February 13 announced Alexey Blinov as the new Russia general manager, a Moscow-based finance executive for Mondelez. 

Liked this article? Subscribe to Food Business Africa News, our regular email newsletters with the latest news insights from Africa and the World’s food and agro industry. HERE