[mahr-mahyt, mahr-meet]
Marmite is the name given to two similar food spreads, a British version produced in the United Kingdom and South Africa and the other in New Zealand. Marmite is made from yeast extract, a by-product of beer brewing, and is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

The British version of the product is a sticky, dark brown paste with a distinctive, powerful flavour, which is extremely salty and savoury with umami qualities, comparable to soy sauce. This distinctive taste is reflected in the British company's marketing slogan: "Love it or hate it." It is similar to the Australian Vegemite and Swiss Cenovis. Bovril is a similar-looking spread made from beef extract; it tastes completely different to Marmite.

The distinctive product was originally British, but a version with a noticeably different taste has been manufactured in New Zealand since 1919, and this is the dominant version in New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands.

The image on the front of the British jar shows a "marmite", a French term for a large, covered earthenware or metal cooking pot. The British Marmite was originally supplied in earthenware pots, but since the 1920s has been sold in glass jars that approximate the shape of such pots. A thinner version in squeezable plastic jars was introduced in March 2006.

British Marmite history

The Marmite Food Extract Company was formed in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, England, in 1902, with Marmite as its main product, and Burton as the site of the first factory. The by-product yeast needed for the paste came from the biggest brewer at the time, Bass Brewery. By 1907, the product had become successful enough to warrant construction of a second factory at Camberwell Green in London.

Initially, Marmite was popular with vegetarians as a meat-free alternative to beef extract products such as Bovril, which were popular in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Today, the main ingredients of Marmite manufactured in the UK are yeast extract, with lesser quantities of sodium chloride (table salt), vegetable extract, niacin, thiamine, spice extracts, riboflavin, folic acid, and celery extracts, although the precise composition is a trade secret. By 1912, the discovery of vitamins was a boost for Marmite, as the spread is a rich source of the vitamin B complex; vitamin B12 is not naturally found in yeast extract, but is added to Marmite during manufacture. With the vitamin B1 deficiency beri-beri being common during the First World War, the spread became more popular.

In 1990, Marmite Limited—which had become a subsidiary of Bovril Limited—was bought by CPC (United Kingdom) Limited, 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.

Marmite's publicity campaigns initially emphasised the spread's healthy nature, extolling it as "The growing up spread you never grow out of." 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, another strand entered the company's marketing efforts; Marmite's distinctive and powerful taste had earned it as many detractors as it had fans, and it was commonly notorious for producing a binary and exclusive "love/hate" reaction amongst consumers. Modern advertisements play on this, and Marmite runs a dual skinned website with two URLs; I Love Marmite and I Hate Marmite, where people may share their experiences of Marmite and are actively encouraged to fuel this debate, as prompted by the I Hate Marmite registration form

A 2004 UK TV advert, which parodied the 1958 Steve McQueen film The Blob, substituting Marmite for the original alien space menace and including scenes of fleeing crowds, was dropped from children's television after concerned parents reported that their children had been scared by the adverts and had nightmares after viewing them.

Marmite is less common outside of the United Kingdom (see Availability worldwide). It is frequently cited as the most-missed foodstuff by British expatriates. Paul Ridout, a British backpacker kidnapped by Kashmiri separatists in 1994, was quoted as saying "It's just one of those things—you get out of the country and it's all you can think about.

Bill Bryson, in Notes from a Small Island writes: "There are certain things that you have to be British, or at least older than me, or possibly both, to appreciate: skiffle music, salt-cellars with a single hole, [and] Marmite (an edible yeast extract with the visual properties of an industrial lubricant).

In 2006, a new "squeezy" jar of Marmite was released. It was released to make the Marmite easier to get out. The container is made of plastic, and when first launched the "Marmite" logo was replaced by the words "Squeeze me".

New Zealand Marmite

The Sanitarium Health Food Company obtained sole rights to distribute the product in New Zealand and Australia, in 1908. They later began manufacturing Marmite under license in Christchurch.

In the 1930s, Sanitarium began experimenting with the ingredients, which are now present in quantities different from the British version. Labels on the products show that the New Zealand version also has high levels of potassium, which the British version does not.

This New Zealand product is now considered to have a somewhat sweeter flavour than the British spread. It is widely distributed through Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

Since 1923, New Zealand Marmite has been locked in a battle with Vegemite, an American-owned Australian spread with a similar appearance but markedly different flavour.

In recent years, Unilever has sold British Marmite on New Zealand supermarket shelves, replacing the name "Marmite" on the jar with "Our Mate", as Sanitarium has exclusive rights to the name in the country.. "Our Mate" tastes considerably more salty and less sweet than New Zealand Marmite.

Serving suggestions

Marmite is traditionally eaten as a savoury spread on bread, toast, and savoury biscuits. Owing to its concentrated taste it is usually spread thinly with butter or margarine. In 2003, the Absolute Press published Paul Hartley's The Marmite Cookbook, containing recipes and suggestions on how to blend Marmite with other foodstuffs.

Marmite also works well with cheese (such as in a cheese sandwich) and has been used as an additional flavouring in Mini Cheddars, a savoury cheese-flavoured biscuit snack. Similarly, it has been used by Walkers Crisps for a special-edition flavour and has introduced, with local Dorset bakery Fudges, Marmite Biscuits in the UK. Starbucks UK has a cheese and Marmite Panini on their menu.

In New Zealand, Marmite is sometimes spread on bread with potato crisps added to make a "Marmite and Chip" or "Crisps and Marmite" sandwich.

British product range/Colours Packets

  • Marmite 57g
  • Marmite 125g
  • Marmite 250g
  • Marmite 500g
  • Marmite 600g (Catering size, in a plastic tub rather than the normal glass jar)
  • Marmite Love portions (6x8g) (Also sold individually in some cafés)
  • Marmite Squeeze 200g
  • Limited Edition Guinness Marmite
  • Limited Edition Champagne Marmite 250g
  • Marmite Breadsticks 30g packets
  • Marmite Rice Cakes 30g packets
  • Marmite Breadsticks 30g (Black)
  • Marmite Rice Cakes 30g (Black)

Availability worldwide

Marmite is widespread and available in most food stores in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, Sri Lanka and South Africa, and generally most parts of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Countries where (Unilever UK Export) Marmite export has some availability, such as some supermarkets, local shops and health food stores are:

Marmite purchased in New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands is New Zealand Marmite, which has its own distinctive flavour.

British supermarket Tesco's own brand yeast extract is also available in stores in the Czech Republic.

New Zealand Marmite ingredients include sugar—and comes in different packaging; it is manufactured by the Sanitarium Health Food Company, which started importing it from Britain in 1910, gained the exclusive agency to sell in New Zealand in 1919, and in the 1930s started experimenting with blends that led to today's independent product. NZ Marmite is marketed and sold in some speciality shops in the UK under the name "Vitamite".

UK Marmite is available in Australia in the 125g size from several small imported food stores.

There is also an imported version called "Our Mate" which is produced and exported by Unilever's UK export division (Unilever UK Export). These are also sold in the 125g size and are produced in Burton on Trent, the home of Marmite and Bovril. The label states "Made in the UK by Unilever UK." Australia's national distributor Manassen Foods works with Unilever UK Export to sell 'Our Mate' (Marmite) in Australia and New Zealand.

In February 2007 Marmite produced a limited edition Guinness Marmite of 300,000 250g jars of their yeast extract with 30% Guinness yeast.

The Guinness Marmite has a more subtle and smoother taste. Although it is alcohol free, it still retains a noticeable hint of "Guinness" flavour. Its consistency is rather more runny than the normal Marmite and care might be needed when opening the white and black liveried jar.

In January 2008 a new special edition Champagne Marmite was released for Valentines day 2008, the limited edition run 600,000 was initially released exclusively to Selfridges of London and then across the UK from January the 21st. With 0.3% champagne added to the recipe the spread isn't alcoholic, but does have a sweeter smell than the regular spread, a slightly lighter colour and like the Guinness edition a runnier consistency than usual. The special edition also has a modified label in the shape of a heart with 'I love you' instead of the regular Marmite logo and decorated with italic writing and cherubs. The lid has also been made a golden colour to match the label and emulate a champagne bottle. A new touch to the jar is a space on the back to write in the name of one's valentine onto the jar.


Whilst the actual 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, after which the husks (yeast have thick cell walls which would detract from the smooth texture of the final product) are separated out. As with other yeast extracts, Marmite contains free glutamic acids, which are analogous to monosodium glutamate (MSG).

UK Marmite is gluten-free.

New Zealand Marmite contains 80% yeast. Other ingredients are sugar, salt, mineral salt (508), wheat maltodextrin, caramel colour, herbs, spices, vitamins (niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, folate, B12), iron, and derivatives of barley, wheat and soy.

Nutritional information

Marmite has useful quantities of vitamins, even in small servings. Sodium (salt) content of the spread is high and has caused concern, but the amount per serving, not the percentage in bulk Marmite, is the significant factor.

British Marmite:

Per 100 g of UK Marmite

  • Energy – 929 kJ/219 kcal
  • Protein – 38.4 g
  • Carbohydrates – 19.2 g
  • of which sugars – 0.5 g
  • Fat – 0.1 g
  • of which saturates – trace
  • Fibre – 3.1 g
  • Sodium – 4.3 g
  • Thiamin – 5.8 mg – 414 % RDA
  • Riboflavin – 7.0 mg – 438 % RDA
  • Niacin – 160.0 mg – 889 % RDA
  • Folic Acid – 2500 µg – 1250 % RDA
  • Vitamin B12 – 15.0 µg – 500 % RDA

Per 4 g serving of UK Marmite

  • Energy – 37 kJ/9 kcal
  • Protein – 1.5 g
  • Carbohydrates – 0.8 g
  • of which sugars – trace
  • Fat – trace
  • of which saturates – trace
  • Fibre – 0.1 g
  • Sodium – 0.2 g
  • Thiamin – 0.23 mg – 16.6 % RDA
  • Riboflavin – 0.28 mg – 17.5 % RDA
  • Niacin – 6.4 mg – 35.6 % RDA
  • Folic Acid – 100 µg – 50.0 % RDA
  • Vitamin B12 – 0.6 µg – 20 % RDA (based on recent change in RDA for B12 from 1.0 µg to 3.0µg)

RDA = Recommended Daily Allowance.
Suggested serving 4 g for adults, 2 g for children.

New Zealand Marmite:

Per 100 g of New Zealand Marmite

  • Energy – 680 kJ
  • Calories – 163 kcal
  • Protein – 16.2 g
  • Fat – 0.9 g
  • Carbohydrates – 16.6 g
  • Fibre – 11.5 g
  • Sodium – 3400 mg
  • Potassium – 1950 mg
  • Thiamin – 11.0 mg
  • Riboflavin – 8.4 mg
  • Niacin – 50.0 mg
  • Folate – 2000 µg
  • Vit. B12 – 10.0 µg
  • Iron – 36.0 mg

Per 5 g serving of New Zealand Marmite

  • Energy – 34 kJ
  • Calories – 8 kcal
  • Protein – 0.8 g
  • Fat – 0.1 g
  • Carbohydrates – 0.8 g
  • Fibre – 0.58 g
  • Sodium – 170 mg
  • Potassium – 880 mg
  • Thiamin – 0.55 mg
  • Riboflavin – 0.4 mg
  • Niacin – 2.5 mg
  • Folate – 10 µg
  • Vit. B12 – 0.5 µg
  • Iron – 1.8 mg

  • Each 5g serve gives (as a percentage of recommended daily dietary intake)
    Thiamin 50%, Riboflavin 25%, Niacin 25%, Folate 50%, Vitamin B12 25% and iron 15%.

Marmite in popular culture

  • In 2000 the noted lateral thinker Edward de Bono advised the U.K Foreign Office committee that the Arab-Israeli conflict might be due, in part, to low levels of zinc found in people who eat unleavened bread, a known side-effect of which is aggression. He suggested shipping out jars of Marmite to compensate.
  • In a New Year's Eve episode of Mr. Bean, the titular character serves "Twiglets" (Marmite-flavoured pretzel-like snacks) to his friends. These "snacks", however, are actually twigs taken from a tree outside Bean's window and dipped in Marmite.
  • In August 2006 as part of the launch of squeezy marmite celebrity chef Gary Rhodes created a dessert consisting of Coffee Ice Cream topped with Chocolate Sauce with a dash of marmite. It was served for one week only in his London restaurant — since this it has been reported that a handful of ice cream bars in some parts of the UK are now offering this topping. (One that does is close to the Marmite factory in Burton-On-Trent).
  • Some suggest that the consumption of Marmite can ward off mosquitos, the reasoning being that the skin gives off a scent, unnoticeable to humans, but which mosquitoes find unappealing, or that the vitamin B content wards off the flying pests. British travelers to tropical locations sometimes take Marmite with them to eat during the trip, although it has been shown that the B vitamin complex does not repel mosquitoes. The root of this belief might have been its use during the 1934–5 Malaria Epidemic in Sri Lanka:

The two things given to each patient were a bottle of the standard quinine mixture and Marmite rolled into the form of vederala's pills. The latter was said to have been the idea of the late Dr. Mary Ratnam and to have been more effective than the quinine itself, such was the degree of starvation among the peasantry. The Suriya Mal workers were amazed to see how this little Marmite revived them and put some life back into them.|1|1|George Jan Lerski|

  • Despite its strong and acquired taste, it is reported to be a very common staple amongst British sufferers of SED.
  • Paddington Bear features in the Marmite UK TV advertisement (broadcast on 13 September 2007); in which he tries a Marmite and cheese sandwich instead of his traditional marmalade sandwich.
  • For many years NZ Marmite containers had an advisory on the back label saying "Too much spoils the flavour".
  • In the 1996 film, The English Patient, Katherine Clifton (played by Kristin Scott Thomas) includes Marmite among her favourite things: "Water—fish in it—and hedgehogs—I love hedgehogs. Marmite—I'm addicted, and baths, but not with other people! Islands—and your handwriting. I could go on all day."
  • In The Vicar of Dibley, Letitia Cropley serves a Marmite cake on Frank's birthday.
  • In T.C. Boyle's short-story "The Miracle at Ballinspittle" Nuala Nolan eats nothing but Marmite and soda-water as part of a Lenten fast.


See also

External links

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