There’s a joke by English comedian Peter Kay that goes like this:
“I’m in a great mood tonight because the other day I entered a competition and I won a year’s supply of Marmite……… one jar.”
As long as Marmite has been around the problem for its marketeers has never been awareness – who doesn’t know Marmite? The problem has been how to sell more of it. Those thin dabs on toast once a day, and the scarcely diminishing jar…. It means that for all the Marmite love, sales in New Zealand are worth, at most, $10 million a year (or less than $2.50 per Kiwi!)
Not surprisingly in post-Marmageddon New Zealand (which was 2 years ago now, when the Christchurch Earthquake-damaged factory meant supply dwindled to a halt), Marmite’s advertisers have focused on diversifying use: imagery of Marmite with avocado slices, Marmite on pizza, in stir fry…. It’s a campaign that’s run extensively over bus shelters and billboards under the slogan ‘Made to Be Messed With.’
On top of this, New Zealand got the “stuffed crust” Marmite pizza tie-in with Pizza Hut, which gained a lot of international social media attention, such as this on Buzzfeed. (Though who knows how many sales? )
Diversifying has worked for Marmite in the UK – certainly in terms of gaining attention. They have produced numerous brand extensions (potato crisps, rice cakes, crackers…) and then poked fun at *spreading themselves thin* by running billboard ads with fake adverts for Marmite shampoo and fabric conditioner. A (real) Marmite muesli bar was promoted under the slogan ‘Have we gone too far?’ with one ad featuring someone gagging as he tried it. Self-parody for a brand with self-assurance.
New Zealand Marmite is produced by Sanitarium, and British Marmite is now owned by Unilever. The two brands have had no link whatsoever for more than 100 years – but they remain the world’s only two official Marmites.
Marmite is an English product going back to 1902; in 1908 a NZ manufacturer bought the rights to sell it in Australia and NZ. It has remained this way ever since. (English Marmite can be found in NZ under the label ‘Our Mate’ – it isn’t allowed to be labeled ‘Marmite’.)
Marmite was invented by a German chemist in 1902, who realised that the yeast extract that was a byproduct of the brewing industry could be made into a flavoursome concentrate.
The Marmite factory was set up just two miles from the Bass brewery in Burton-on Trent in Staffordshire, and this brewery remains a supplier to British Marmite today. (This Guardian article has a lot more history).
And where does the brewer’s yeast for Kiwi Marmite – which makes up 80% of the finished product – come from then? This Marmageddon-era Otago Daily Times piece reveals Southern brewery Speights is at least one source, with spokesperson Jude Waite saying, “We would love to be giving them our yeast again…. Until the factory opens again, all our yeast is going out with the spare grain. We don’t know the exact details, but we understand it is largely used as animal feed in and around the wider Dunedin area.”
Should you be interested in making your own, the inimitable MsMarmiteLover – who blogs about many other things, but also really loves Marmite – managed to elicit some clues from Marmite’s Quality and Innovation expert in the UK. Here’s her recipe (it takes around 10 days and ends up tasting, “different…”)