Published on Tuesday, March 25, 2003 by Reuters
Boycott of American Goods Over Iraq War Gains
by Erik Kirschbaum
BERLIN - No more Coca-Cola or Budweiser, no Marlboro, no American
whiskey or even American Express cards -- a growing number of
restaurants in Germany are taking everything American off their menus
to protest the war in Iraq.
Children shout anti-US slogans as they gather with other protesters
outside the US embassy in Berlin March 20, 2003, after the start of
the US-led military action against Iraq. No more Coca-Cola or
Budweiser, no Marlboro, no American whiskey or even American Express
cards -- a growing number of restaurants in Germany are taking
everything American off their menus to protest the Iraq war. Although
the protests are mainly symbolic, waiters in dozens of bars and
restaurants in Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Bonn and other German cities
are telling patrons, 'Sorry, Coca-Cola is not available any more due
to the current political situation.' (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)
Although the protests are mainly symbolic, waiters in dozens of bars
and restaurants in Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Bonn and other German
cities are telling patrons, "Sorry, Coca-Cola is not available any
more due to the current political situation."
The boycotts appear to be part of a nascent worldwide movement. One
Web site, www.consumers-against-war.de, calls for boycotts of 27 top
American firms from Microsoft to Kodak while another,
www.adbusters.org, urges the "millions of people against the war"
to "Boycott Brand America."
Consumer fury seems to be on the rise. Demonstrators in Paris smashed
the windows of a McDonald's restaurant last week, forcing police in
riot gear to move in to protect staff and customers of the American
fast-food outlet. The attackers sprayed obscenities and "boycott" on
In Indonesia, Iraq war opponents have pasted signs on McDonald's and
other American food outlets, trying to force them shut by "sealing
them" and urging Indonesians to avoid them.
In the Swiss city of Basel, 50 students recently staged a sit-down
strike in front of a McDonald's to block customers' entry, waved
peace signs and urged people to eat pretzels instead of hamburgers.
Anti-American sentiment has even reached provinces in Russia, where
some rural eateries put up signs telling Americans they were
unwelcome, according to an Izvestia newspaper report.
A German bicycle manufacturer, Riese und Mueller GmbH, canceled all
business deals with its American suppliers.
"Americans only pay attention when money is on the line," director
Heiko Mueller told Reuters, whose firm buys $300,000 worth of
supplies from half a dozen American firms each year.
"We wanted to make a statement against this war and told our American
partners that unless they renounce what their government is doing we
won't do any business with them anymore."
SMALL BUT SYMBOLIC ACTS
The German restaurant boycotts of American products started small but
spread rapidly after the Iraq war began on Thursday. The conflict has
struck a raw nerve in a country that became decidedly anti-war after
the devastation of World War II, which it initiated.
"If people all around the world boycott American products it might
influence their policies," said Jean-Yves Mabileau, owner
of "L'Auberge Francaise" which joined 10 Hamburg restaurants in
banning Coca Cola, Philip Morris' Marlboro cigarettes, whiskey and
other American goods.
"This started as a light-hearted reaction to Americans dumping French
wine in the gutter and renaming 'French Fries' as 'Freedom Fries',"
he said. "But it feels good to take a stand against this war. It is
just a small gesture, but a good one."
Diners at the Osteria restaurant in Berlin are finding that "things
go better without Coke" and are ordering Germany's long overshadowed
imitation of "the real thing" -- the slightly sweeter "Afri-Cola" --
to express their outrage.
"We wanted to do something to express our annoyance," Osteria owner
Fabio Angile told Reuters. "We want to hit America where it hurts --
in their wallets. None of the customers have complained. On the
contrary, most thought it was a great idea."
Herve Keroureda, owner of a French restaurant in Hamburg known as "Ti
Breizh," said he was astonished by the massive media coverage of
their small-scale anti-American protest.
"It was only intended as a small gesture but has turned into a
gigantic issue," he said. "And the reaction from the patrons has been
tremendous. Most have called it a brilliant idea."
In Bonn, bartender Bruno Kessler said he was refusing to sell
American whiskey or American beer such as Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser
at his "Eifeler Stuben."
"I asked myself 'What can I possibly do to show my anger over this
barbary?'," he told Germany's N-24 television network.
STARBUCKS, BIG MACS AVOIDED
Sarah Stolz, a 22-year-old German student of American studies, was
headed for a Starbucks, coffee shop in central Berlin when her anti- war conscience got the best of her.
"I was thinking about going into Starbucks which I love, when I
realized it was wrong," she said. "I'm backing the boycott because
the war is totally unjustified."
Rita Marschall was avoiding McDonald's and Burger King.
"I'm boycotting American products because their policy on Iraq is
totally wrong," said Marschall, 26, in front of a Berlin
McDonald's. "It's just one of many ways we can take a stand."
Some German bakeries have renamed a local cake known as "Amerikaner" -
- a disk-shaped pastry with icing on top -- as "Peace-ies," bearing a
peace sign piped in chocolate sauce.
The boycotts are having only a negligible business impact.
Establishments often associated with the American way of life such as
Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's and Coca-Cola reported no major
business impact from the protests. Dunkin Donuts is owned by
Britain's Allied Domecq
"We're really a local business in Germany, the product is made in
Germany and they're boycotting German products," said Jonathan
Chandler, communications director for Coca-Cola Europe, Eurasia and
the Middle East in London.
Chandler declined comment on whether it was hurting sales, but an
industry source said any impact would not be serious.
A spokeswoman for McDonald's in Europe said there had been no
discernible impact on sales from the actions, and described the
attack on the Paris restaurant as "an unfortunate incident during a
"As a global entity, McDonald's is just a brand," she said. "Most of
the restaurants are local franchises and support their local
community. So why do they attack McDonald's? If you get a good answer
please let me know."
In the London suburb of Milton Keynes, the Greens party have called
on consumers to boycott 330 American products ranging from Mars bars
to Gap jeans and American films on DVD and video.
In Zurich, travel agents said some clients who usually take holidays
in the United States are changing their destinations.
"Some of the most loyal customers who have been traveling to the
United States for years have changed their plans because they don't
like what Bush is doing," Lucia Zeller, director of the Travac travel
agency, told the Tages Anzeiger newspaper.