Marmite is a thick, brown paste with a strong, salty flavour.
It is the original yeast spread, made from yeast extract, salt, vegetable extract, and spices.
It is sold in distinctive, bulb-shaped glasses with yellow lids. A French stock pot called a “marmite” is pictured on the label. It now comes in squeezable plastic jars as well. The squeezy version is thinner.
Many people won’t even try it because of the smell; many others make the mistake of thinking it’s a chocolate spread.
In England, it is made at Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire. The company is now owned by Unilever Bestfoods. They use yeast from breweries, including the Bass brewery right in Burton-on-Trent two miles (3.2 km) away.
The shape of the jar can be problematic for scraping the last of the spread out. The only real way to get it is to stick your finger in.
You can buy sterling silver lids to replace the plastic lids. They come in a few different sizes to fit different sized jars. Prices (2006) range from £95 to £130 for the sterling lids, depending on size.
A snack food called “Twiglets” is Marmite-flavoured pretzel sticks.
Many supermarkets in the UK sell their own brand of yeast spread.
Marmite is also made in Singapore, New Zealand, and Australia.
Marmite used to be imported into New Zealand and Australia from England until 1944. Since then, it has been made in Christchurch, New Zealand, under licence by the Sanitarium Health Food Company. The packaging looks nothing like UK packaging: Sanitarium-made Marmite used to be sold in a plastic jar with a white lid on it. Now, it is sold in brown plastic jars with an reddish-orange lid and label. The Sanitarium recipe is somewhat different, too: the ingredients are yeast, sugar, salt, wheatgerm extract, mineral salt 508 (aka potassium chloride), caramel colour, herbs and spices. It has a milder taste, perhaps owing to the sugar.
That being said, in New Zealand, there is a brand of yeast spread called “Our Mate” whose packaging looks close enough to the UK Marmite packaging for a lawsuit, save for the missing marmite pot on the label. It’s unlikely, though, that there will be a lawsuit, as this stuff is actually the genuine article, the real Marmite, made in and imported from England. They have to use the “Our Mate” name, because they licenced their own name in New Zealand to the Sanitarium people. The English Marmite sells out very quickly when it appears on the shelves.
Spread thinly on toast, sandwiches, crackers, crumpets.
A teaspoon can be added as a flavouring to soups, stews, gravies, meat pies and casseroles.
- many people like to spread it on toast, then put cheese on top, then pop it under the broiler to melt the cheese;
- many children grew up on Marmite soldiers — toast soldiers with Marmite spread on them;
- some like Marmite and marmalade;
- some like Marmite and peanut butter;
- some people make a hot drink of it by adding a teaspoon of it to a cup of hot water.
100% vegetarian, but not kosher, though only because it’s not produced under rabbinical supervision.
High in B vitamins.
Store at room temperature even after opening.
It can last for years like this without spoiling, though really old jars can have their contents eventually go hard.
The processing of making a concentrated yeast extract was first discovered by Justus von Liebig in Germany (for more information, see entry on “Liebig’s Extract of Meat.”)
The Marmite Food Extract Company started operations in November 1902 in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire in a building originally used for malt. They started production using the methods that were used for yeast in Europe, but found that the methods had to be adjusted for the yeast from British beer. The rent on the building at the time was 100 pounds a year.
In 1907, a second factory was opened in Camberwell Green, London.
The product was first sold in earthenware crocks, with a shape designed to suggest that of a French marmite pot. Though the earthenware has been changed to glass, the shape still is meant to suggest a marmite pot.
Sales took off particularly after the importance of B vitamins was realized in 1912, and with the realization that yeast products were high in them. Marmite was included in soldiers’ rations in both wars.
During the 1920s, they also sold Marmite stock cubes.
The metal lids were switched to plastic lids in 1984.
The stock cubes were relaunched in 1996.
In 1996, the company introduced the slogan, “You Either Love It Or Hate It.”
In the spring of 2001, Denmark began cracking down on the sales of Marmite in that country, making stores remove it from their shelves because it contravened certain food regulations. The law governing the sales of vitamin-fortified food was actually passed back in 2004, but Marmite had escaped notice somehow until 2011. The laws are enforced by the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration. Other products which have been caught in the regulations have included Farley’s Rusks, Horlicks, Ovaltine, and Vegemite. Overall in the EU, though, Marmite is recognized as a legal product.
Literature & Lore
In the New Year’s Eve episode of Mr. Bean, Mr. Bean attempts to create snacks for his two bored, hapless guests by cutting up twigs from a tree outside and dipping the twigs in Marmite.
A “Marmitophage” is someone who eats a great deal of Marmite.
The word “Sanitarium” was invented by John Harvey Kellogg, of the Kellogg’s Corn Flakes family.
Barton, Laura. “It must be spread thinly. T-h-i-n-l-y…”. (Marmite) London: Guardian. 4 January 2002.
Harrison, David. Residents kick up a stink over Marmite. London: Daily Telegraph. 26 July 2009.
They definitely hate it! Denmark BANS Marmite… because it has too many vitamins. London: Daily Mail. 25 May 2011.