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McDonald’s, Starbucks and Coca-Cola leave Russia

Mar 8, 2022, 3:06 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 3:18 pm
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 08: Russians walk into a McDonald's restaurant in Moscow on March 7, 2017 in...
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 08: Russians walk into a McDonald's restaurant in Moscow on March 7, 2017 in Moscow, Russia. Relations between the United States and Russia are at their lowest point in years as evidence mounts about the complex relationship between President Donald Trump's administration and the Russian government. Russia is also struggling financially as the low price of oil and the continued effects of sanctions take hold. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

(CNN) — McDonald’s and Starbucks are shutting their restaurants and cafes in Russia, and Coca-Cola is suspending its operations there in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“McDonald’s has decided to temporarily close all our restaurants in Russia and pause all operations in the market,” CEO Chris Kempczinski said in a statement Tuesday.

There were 847 locations of McDonald’s in Russia at the close of last year, according to an investor document.

Globally, most McDonald’s locations are operated by franchise operators. But that’s not the case in Russia, where 84% of locations are operated by the company, according to the document. Russia’s restaurants, along with another 108 in Ukraine, all operated by McDonald’s, accounted for 9% of the company’s revenue in 2021, according to the document.

“In Russia, we employ 62,000 people who have poured their heart and soul into our McDonald’s brand to serve their communities. We work with hundreds of local, Russian suppliers and partners who produce the food for our menu and support our brand,” Kempczinski said. “And we serve millions of Russian customers each day who count on McDonald’s. In the thirty-plus years that McDonald’s has operated in Russia, we’ve become an essential part of the 850 communities in which we operate.”

But, he added, “at the same time, our values mean we cannot ignore the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine.”

Starbucks

In a Tuesday message to employees, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said that “today, we have decided to suspend all business activity in Russia.”

He added that “our licensed partner has agreed to immediately pause store operations and will provide support to the nearly 2,000 [employees] in Russia who depend on Starbucks for their livelihood.”

Johnson added that Starbucks is halting shipment of all Starbucks products to Russia. “We condemn the horrific attacks on Ukraine by Russia and our hearts go out to all those affected,” he said.

Coke

Coca-Cola also said Tuesday that it is “suspending its business in Russia.”

The company stated that “our hearts are with the people who are enduring unconscionable effects from these tragic events in Ukraine,” adding that it will monitor the situation as things change.

Danone, Unilever and Yum take a different approach

Danone, which makes Silk milk alternatives, Activia, Oikos yogurt, baby formula and more, said in a LinkedIn post on Sunday that “we have decided to suspend all investment projects in Russia,” adding that it would “maintain our production and distribution of fresh dairy products and infant nutrition, to still meet the essential food needs of the local population.”

The company said it and its employees “express their solidarity with the people who are now suffering the atrocities of war,” adding that it has “made a donation of 500,000 euros to the Red Cross.”

Unilever made a similar statement this week, saying that “we will continue to supply our everyday essential food and hygiene products made in Russia to people in the country,” adding “we will keep this under close review.”

But the company noted it is has suspended imports of its products to Russia and is stopping all investment in the country, in addition to stopping exports from there. It said it won’t profit from its presence in Russia.

Yum Brands, which owns KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and the Habit Grill, said in a statement that it “has suspended all investment and restaurant development in Russia.”

The company added that it will “redirect all profits from operations in Russia to humanitarian efforts,” in addition to making donations to the Red Cross through the Yum Brands Foundation. Yum has about 1,000 KFC restaurants and 50 Pizza Hut locations in Russia. The company said that most of these are operated by independent owners.

Farryl Bertmann, a registered dietitian and senior lecturer in the nutrition and food sciences department at the University of Vermont, warned that if big food companies leave Russia the citizen population could suffer, even if they have other sources of food.

“I feel very strongly that people should be given the opportunity to purchase a variety of foods at different price points,” she said. “That can only be successfully done if access is there.”

She said that “ultimately, foods need to be made available,” adding, “I would be very concerned if the food environment [were] to dramatically change.”

Facing pressure

The announcements followed pressure from critics who called for the companies to leave Russia. Several Western companies across multiple industries have halted operations in Russia after the country’s attack on Ukraine, yet some big players in the food space are continuing to sell their products in the country.

For some restaurant chains, that may be because locations are operated by franchises, giving corporate owners less control. Some big food makers are opting to partially pulling out, suspending some investments while continue to sell products to local shoppers. Proponents of the food industry remaining in Russia think they have a responsibility to stay, and fear the implications of such a move for Russian citizens, many of whom want nothing to do with the war.

On Twitter, people employed used the hashtags #bocyottCoke and #boycottMcDonalds because of the companies’ business in Russia.

McDonald’s, PepsiCo and other companies were called out by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

Before McDonald’s made its announcement, DiNapoli emailed a number of companies represented in the New York State Common Retirement Fund, including PepsiCo and McDonald’s, urging them to stop doing business with Russia.

“Companies like McDonald’s and PepsiCo, which have a large footprint in Russia, need to consider whether doing business in Russia is worth the risk during this extraordinarily volatile time,” DiNaPoli said in a statement.

Twitter users also employed #boycottPepsi to express their feelings. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the company is exploring its options for its business in Russia. PepsiCo did not respond to a request for comment from CNN Business on its operations in Russia.

— CNN’s Robert North contributed to this report.


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McDonald’s, Starbucks and Coca-Cola leave Russia