BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — The Israeli company SodaStream will begin operating in Argentina as a first step toward selling its products throughout Latin America.
The sparkling water brand will invest approximately $36 million in its first industrial plant in Argentina.
“Here is the first country where we are going to settle with an office, then we will go to Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Colombia,” CEO Daniel Birnbaum announced last week in Buenos Aires. “For us, Argentina is the capital of Latin America.”
The Argentina factory will manufacture the soda-making equipment for the country’s market, as well as some merchandise to be shipped to the region. The factory will employ approximately 100 people.
Among the factors triggering the decision to establish the plant in Argentina is the large consumption of soda and recent agreements signed between Argentina and Israel. Argentina is the second-largest consumer of soda in the world, with 80 liters per capita annually, behind Germany, with a soda consumption of 160 liters.
In September, during the first visit of a sitting Israeli prime minister to Argentina and the region, Benjamin Netanyahu and Argentine President Mauricio Macri signed a cooperation agreement between the countries to promote investment and trade.
In September 2011, Argentina signed a free trade agreement with Israel. Israel’s trade agreement with countries that belong to the South American joint market known as Mercosur — namely Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay — went into effect in June 2010, and in September 2011 with Argentina.
In October 2014, SodaStream announced it would close its factory in the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim and move to southern Israel in the face of pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, against Israel over its policies toward the Palestinians. The movement claimed that SodaStream discriminated against Palestinian workers and paid some less than Israeli workers. Some 500 Palestinian employees lost their jobs at that time.
The company now has more than 1,400 employees in the Idan Hanegev industrial park near Rahat, one-third of them Bedouin Arabs from the surrounding area.