A British jar of Marmite
|Invented by||Justus von Liebig|
|Company||Marmite Food Extract Company|
Marmite (// MAR-myt) is the brand name for two similar food spreads: the original British version, since 2000 a Unilever product; and a modified version produced in New Zealand by Sanitarium Health Food Company and distributed in Australia and the Pacific. Marmite is made from yeast extract, a by-product of beer brewing. Other similar products include the Australian Vegemite, the Swiss Cenovis and the German Vitam-R.
The British version of the product is a sticky, dark brown food paste with a distinctive, powerful flavour, which is extremely salty. This distinctive taste is reflected in the British company's marketing slogan: "Love it or hate it." The product's name has entered British English as a metaphor for something that is an acquired taste or tends to polarise opinions.
A version with a different flavour has been manufactured in New Zealand since 1919. This is the only product sold as Marmite in Australasia and the Pacific, whereas elsewhere in the world the British version predominates.
The image on the front of the British jar shows a "marmite" (French: [maʁmit]), a French term for a large, covered earthenware or metal cooking pot. British Marmite was originally supplied in earthenware pots, but since the 1920s has been sold in glass jars shaped like the French cooking pot.
The product that was to become Marmite was invented in the late 19th century when German scientist Justus von Liebig discovered that brewer's yeast could be concentrated, bottled and eaten. In 1902 the Marmite Food Extract Company was formed in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, England with Marmite as its main product and Burton as the site of the first factory. The by-product yeast needed for the paste was supplied by Bass Brewery. By 1907, the product had become successful enough to warrant construction of a second factory at Camberwell Green in London.
The product's popularity prompted the Sanitarium Health Food Company to obtain sole rights to distribute the product in New Zealand and Australia in 1908. They later began manufacturing Marmite under licence in Christchurch, albeit using a modified version of the original recipe, most notable for its inclusion of sugar and caramel. Common ingredients are also slightly different quantities from the British version; the New Zealand version has high levels of potassium, for example. New Zealand Marmite is described as having a "weaker" or "less tangy" flavour than the British version. It is distributed throughout Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.
By 1912, the discovery of vitamins was a boost for Marmite, as the spread is a rich source of the vitamin B complex; with the vitamin B1 deficiency beri-beri being common during World War I, the spread became more popular. British troops during World War I were issued Marmite as part of their rations.
In the 1930s, Marmite was used by the English scientist Lucy Wills to successfully treat a form of anaemia in mill workers in Bombay. She later identified folic acid as the active ingredient. Marmite was used to treat malnutrition in Suriya-Mal workers during the 1934–5 malaria epidemic in Sri Lanka. Housewives were encouraged to spread Marmite thinly and to "use it sparingly just now" because of limited rations of the product.
In 1990, Marmite Limited – which had become a subsidiary of Bovril Limited – was bought by CPC International Inc, which changed its name to Best Foods Inc in 1998. Best Foods Inc subsequently merged with Unilever in 2000, and Marmite is now a trademark owned by Unilever.
There are a number of similar yeast products available in other countries; these products are not directly connected to the original Marmite recipe and brand. The Australian product Vegemite is distributed in many countries, and AussieMite is sold in Australia. Other products include OzeMite which is made by Dick Smith Foods, Cenovis, a Swiss spread, and Vegex, an autolyzed yeast product available in the USA since 1913.
Marmite is traditionally eaten as a savoury spread on bread, toast, savoury biscuits or crackers, and other similar baked products. Owing to its concentrated taste it is often spread thinly with butter or margarine. Marmite can also be made into a savoury hot drink by adding one teaspoon to a mug of hot water much like Oxo and Bovril.
Marmite is paired with cheese, such as in a cheese sandwich, and has been used as an additional flavouring in Mini Cheddars, a cheese-flavoured biscuit snack. Similarly, it is one of Walkers Crisps flavours; is sold as a flavouring on rice cakes; and Marmite Biscuits. Starbucks in the UK has a cheese and Marmite panini on its menu.
In New Zealand, Sanitarium, the NZ Marmite company, recommends spreading it on bread with potato chips added to make a "Marmite and Chippie" sandwich. In Singapore and Malaysia, Marmite is popularly added to plain rice congee to give it a strong, salty flavour. In Malaysia, Marmite has been used for cooking with chicken, prawns or crab.
While the process is secret, the general method for making yeast extract on a commercial scale is to add salt to a suspension of yeast, making the solution hypertonic, which leads to the cells shrivelling up; this triggers "autolysis", in which the yeast self-destructs. The dying yeast cells are then heated to complete their breakdown, and since yeast cells have thick cell walls which would detract from the smoothness of the end product, the husks are sieved out. As with other yeast extracts, Marmite contains free glutamic acids, which are analogous to monosodium glutamate.
Today, the main ingredients of Marmite manufactured in the UK are glutamic acid-rich yeast extract, with lesser quantities of sodium chloride, vegetable extract, niacin, thiamine, spice extracts, riboflavin, folic acid and celery extracts, although the precise composition is a trade secret. Vitamin B12 is not naturally found in yeast extract, but is added to Marmite during manufacture.
Besides folic acid, Marmite is high in various B vitamins and has been noted as a superfood. It contains Niacin (vitamin B3) which produces neutrophils (a white blood cell) that helps the body's immune system fight against Staphylococcus bacteria. The sodium content of the spread is high and has caused concern, although it is the amount per serving rather than the percentage in bulk Marmite that is relevant. The main ingredient of Marmite is yeast extract, which contains a high concentration of glutamic acid. Marmite made in the United Kingdom and exported to several countries is believed to be gluten free[by whom?] although there is no chemical relation between glutamic acid and gluten, despite the phonetic similarity of the two terms. However, Unilever will not confirm that it contains less than 20 PPM of gluten, the current European standard and the proposed US FDA standard for gluten-free labelling.
Marmite should be avoided if a person takes a MAOI antidepressant, such as phenelzine (Nardil) or tranylcypromine (Parnate), as yeast extracts interact negatively with these types of medications due to their tyramine content.
Marmite today is fortified with added vitamins, resulting in it being banned temporarily in Denmark, which disallows foodstuffs that have been fortified until they have undergone necessary testing. The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration stated in 2015 that Marmite had not been banned in the country, but that fortified foods need to be tested for safety and approved before they can be marketed in the country. In 2014 suppliers applied for a risk assessment to be undertaken and Marmite is now available in Denmark.
|UK Marmite||per 100 g||per 4 g serving||NZ Marmite||per 100 g||per 5 g serving|
|Energy||983 kJ||39 kJ||Energy||680 kJ||34 kJ|
|Calories||231 kcal||9 kcal||Calories||163 kcal||8 kcal|
|Protein||38.4 g||1.5 g||Protein||16.2 g||0.8 g|
|Carbohydrates||19.2 g||0.8 g||Carbohydrates||16.6 g||0.8 g|
|of which sugars||0.5 g||trace||sugars||11.8 g||0.6 g|
|Fat||0.1 g||nil||Fat||0.9 g||0.1 g|
|of which saturates||trace||nil|
|Fibre||3.1 g||0.1 g||Fibre||11.5 g||0.58 g|
|Sodium||3.9 g||0.2 g||Sodium||3.4 g||0.17 g|
|Salt||11 g||0.44 g||Potassium||1.95 g||0.098 g|
|% RDA||% RDI|
|Thiamin (B1)||5.8 mg||0.23 mg||17%||Thiamin||11.0 mg||0.55 mg||50%|
|Riboflavin (B2)||7.0 mg||0.28 mg||18%||Riboflavin||8.4 mg||0.4 mg||25%|
|Niacin (B3)||160.0 mg||6.4 mg||36%||Niacin||50.0 mg||2.5 mg||25%|
|Folic Acid||2500 µg||100 µg||50%||Folate||2000 µg||100 µg||50%|
|Vitamin B12||15.0 µg||0.6 µg|| 40%||Vitamin B12||10.0 µg||0.5 µg||25%|
|Iron||36.0 mg||1.8 mg||15%|
RDA = Recommended Daily Allowance
|RDI = Recommended Daily Intake|
British marketing and packaging
Marmite's publicity campaigns initially emphasised the spread's healthy nature, extolling it as "The growing up spread you never grow out of." The first major Marmite advertising campaign began in the 1930s, with characters whose faces incorporated the word 'good'. Soon afterwards, the rising awareness of vitamins was used in Marmite advertising, with slogans proclaiming that "A small quantity added to the daily diet will ensure you and your family are taking sufficient vitamin B to keep nerves, brain, and digestion in proper working order."
During the 1980s, the spread was advertised with the slogan "My mate, Marmite", chanted in television commercials by an army platoon. The spread had been a standard vitamin supplement for British-based German POWs during the Second World War.
By the 1990s Marmite's distinctive and powerful flavour had earned it as many detractors as it had fans, and it was known for producing a polarised "love/hate" reaction amongst consumers. Marmite launched a "Love it or Hate it" campaign in October 1996, and this resulted in the coining of the phrase "Marmite effect" or "Marmite reaction" for anything which provoked strong and polarised feelings. On 22 April 2010, Unilever threatened legal action against the British National Party for using a jar of Marmite and the "love it or hate it" slogan in their television adverts.
As Unilever has the exclusive right to the Marmite name in the United Kingdom, and Sanitarium has the exclusive right to the name in Australia and New Zealand, their respective versions of Marmite must be sold under a different name in the other countries. Unilever International sells the British Marmite as Our Mate in Australia and New Zealand, while Sanitarium sells the New Zealand Marmite as "NZ-Mite" in the UK.
In Denmark, food safety legislation dictates that foodstuffs that contain added vitamins can only be sold by retailers which have been licensed by the Veterinary and Food Administration. In May 2011, the company that imports the product to Denmark revealed that it wasn't licensed and had therefore stopped selling the product: this led to widespread but inaccurate reports in the British media that Marmite had been banned by the Danish authorities.
In the Netherlands, Marmite 125g jar and 200g Squeeze jar are available in most supermarkets and some tiny grocery stores.
2012–13 New Zealand Marmite shortage
In November 2011, Sanitarium shut down the sole production line of New Zealand Marmite at its Christchurch factory after a cooling tower at the factory was deemed unsafe, having cracked in the 22 February 2011 Christchurch earthquake and its aftershocks. On 19 March 2012, the company announced that its own stocks of Marmite had run out and the production line was not expected to be running again until July. Some supermarkets reported at the time they had already run out of stock, and there was only a few weeks of stock left in their distribution centres, leading to the dubbing of Marmite as "black gold" and the crisis as "Marmageddon".
Immediately after the announcement, there was reported panic buying of Marmite from supermarkets, and over one hundred auctions for jars of Marmite, new and used, were listed on online auction site TradeMe, with some sellers asking for up to NZ$800 per jar; over 185 times its usual retail price of around $4.25 per 250g jar People were advised to use the spread sparingly, with even Prime Minister John Key admitting he might have to switch to Australian rival Vegemite once his personal supplies had run out. Throughout the shortage Marmite ran a number of marketing campaigns on social media which led to a 2,975% increase in fans and a lot of brand exposure.
In June 2012, it was announced that additional structural damage had been uncovered at the factory, and the proposed July return to production was rescheduled to October. Problems with an unfinished lift at the factory delayed production into 2013.
Sanitarium announced in February 2013 that production had restarted and the factory was in the process of building up stock ready for the return. Marmite returned to New Zealand retailers effective midnight on 20 March 2013, although only the 250g jar size was initially available and many supermarkets imposed a limit of two jars per customer per day to promote fairness and prevent bulk buying. The return to overseas retailers is on now that the New Zealand supply and demand has settled.
On 24 January 2014, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency was noted, in a CBC story, as moving to stop the sale of Marmite, as well as Vegemite and Ovaltine, in Canada because they were enriched with vitamins and minerals which were not listed in Canadian food regulations. The agency said the products were not a health hazard. The CFIA later clarified that these specific items had been seized because they were not the versions that are formulated for sale in Canada and which met all Canadian food regulations. Canadian versions of Marmite and the other products would still be permitted to be sold in Canada.
Marmite is manufactured in South Africa by Pioneer Foods (Pty) Ltd in traditional and cheese flavour.
In 2002 a 100th anniversary jar was released.
In February 2007 Marmite produced a limited edition Guinness Marmite of 300,000 250g jars of their yeast extract with 30% Guinness yeast, giving it a noticeable hint of "Guinness" flavour. In January 2008 Champagne Marmite was released for Valentine's Day, with a limited-edition run of 600,000 units initially released exclusively to Selfridges of London. The product had 0.3% champagne added to the recipe, and a modified heart-shaped label with "I love you" in place of the logo.
In March 2010, a super-strong blend called Marmite Extra Old, or XO for short, was launched in the UK. Normal Marmite contains a mix of lager, bitter and ale varieties of yeast, sourced from breweries throughout the UK. However, as lagers have a lighter, sweeter taste, residue from this product is not used in Marmite XO. Only residue from traditional bitters and ales are blended to ensure the stronger taste. Marmite XO is matured for 28 days - four times longer than usual. Continuing the tradition of different coloured caps for special editions, Marmite XO's cap is black.
In April 2012 a special edition jar in commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II was released. With the product renamed "Ma'amite," the redesigned label featured a colour scheme based upon the Union Jack; the marmite and spoon logo replaced by a gold crown, and with a red rather than yellow cap. The front label also declares "Made with 100% British Yeast". Coinciding with the 110th anniversary of the brand, production was limited to 300,000 jars. For Christmas 2012 a gold limited edition was launched, containing edible gold-coloured flecks.
In Britain the product has traditionally been available in 2, 4, 8 and 16 oz jars.
Marmite chocolate is also available.
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