A jar of British Marmite

Marmite (play /ˈmɑrmt/ mar-myt) is the name given to two similar food spreads: the original British version, first produced in the United Kingdom and later South Africa, and a version produced in New Zealand. Marmite is made from yeast extract, a by-product of beer brewing.

The British version of the product is a sticky, dark brown paste with a distinctive, powerful flavour, which is extremely salty and savoury. This distinctive taste is reflected in the British company's marketing slogan: "Love it or hate it." Other similar products are the Australian Vegemite and the Swiss Cenovis.

The distinctive product was originally British, but a version with a different flavour[1] has been manufactured in New Zealand since 1919, and this is the dominant version in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

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.[2] 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.[3] A thinner version in squeezable plastic jars was introduced in March 2006.



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.[4][5] In 1902 The Marmite Food Extract Company was formed in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, England by the Gilmour family, with Marmite as its main product and Burton as the site of the first factory. The product took its name from the "marmite" (French: [maʁmit]), a French term for a large, covered earthenware or metal cooking pot.[2] The British Marmite was originally supplied in earthenware pots, but since the 1920s has primarily been sold in glass jars that approximate the shape of such pots.[3] The labels of the UK product still carry the image of a marmite. 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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[1] Common ingredients are also present in slightly different quantities from the British version;[1] 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.[1] It is distributed throughout Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

During World War I British troops were issued with Marmite as part of their rations.[4]

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.[citation needed]

Similar products

There are a number of similar yeast products available in other countries, which are not directly connected to the original Marmite recipe and brand. The most well known in English-speaking countries is the Australian product Vegemite which is also distributed in many countries. Other products are Cenovis, a Swiss spread and from 1913, "Vegex" has been available in the USA, it is a similar autolyzed yeast product. It is sold by CEA, a not-for-profit organisation.[8]


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.[citation needed]

Marmite is traditionally eaten as a savoury spread on bread, toast, savoury biscuits (crackers in US usage), and other similar baked products. Owing to its concentrated taste it is usually spread thinly with butter or margarine. Marmite can also be made into a winter drink by adding one teaspoon to a mug of hot water much like Bovril.

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 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.[9]

In New Zealand, Sanitarium, the NZ Marmite company recommends spreading it on bread with potato crisps added to make a "Marmite and Chip" or "Crisps and Marmite" sandwich.[10] In Singapore and Malaysia, Marmite is popularly added to plain rice congee to give it a strong, tasty flavour.

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.[11]


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 hull 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 (MSG).

Today, the main ingredients of Marmite manufactured in the UK are glutamic acid-rich 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.[12] 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.[13]

Nutritional information

In the 1930s, Marmite was used by the English scientist Lucy Wills to identify folic acid and its effect in suppressing anaemia.[14] Besides folic acid (Vitamin B9) Marmite has useful quantities of several other vitamins, even in small servings. The 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. The main ingredient of Marmite is yeast extract, which contains a high concentration of glutamic acid, a known excitotoxin. Marmite made in the United Kingdom is gluten-free.[15]

British[16] & New Zealand[17] Marmite
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 5.8 mg 0.23 mg 17% Thiamin 11.0 mg 0.55 mg 50%
Riboflavin 7.0 mg 0.28 mg 18% Riboflavin 8.4 mg 0.4 mg 25%
Niacin 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 [18] 40% Vitamin B12 10.0 µg 0.5 µg 25%
        Iron 36.0 mg 1.8 mg 15%

RDA = Recommended Daily Allowance
Suggested serving 4g for adults, 2 g for children
Children's serve has ½ of the adult quantities shown.

RDI = Recommended Daily Intake

British marketing and packaging

The 'squeezy' version of UK Marmite

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.)

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.[19]

In 2006, a new "squeezy" jar of Marmite was released. The container is made of flexible plastic which can be squeezed to dispense the product. When first launched, the "Marmite" logo was replaced by the words "Squeeze me".

Paddington Bear featured 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. When he offers the sandwiches to other characters, he gets mixed and often dramatic reactions.[20]

On 8 March 2010 a new version of the product was launched, Marmite XO, "XO" mimicking a grade of brandy known as Extra Old. Quotes from back of the jar include 'Marmite XO Extra Old' and 'Using four specially selected yeast sources, our master blender has crafted the secret Marmite recipe and matured it four times longer to create a Marmite so strong and full bodied it can only be for the most devoted of lovers'.[21][22]

Marmite effect

By the 1990s, another aspect entered the company's marketing efforts; Marmite's distinctive and powerful flavour had earned it as many detractors as it had fans, and it was commonly notorious for producing a polarised "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. This resulted in the coining of the phrase "Marmite effect" or "Marmite reaction" for anything which provokes such strong and polarised feelings.[23]

On 22 April 2010, Unilever threatened legal action against the British National Party (BNP) for using a jar of Marmite and the "love it or hate it" slogan in their television adverts.[24]

Many Brighton residents use the phrase "That's proper Marmite" to show that something may be taken the wrong way or maybe isn't the best idea. One example of this is Riziki Millanzi in the interview about Crystal Palace coming to play Brighton and Hove Albion in Falmer Stadium which was published in The Argus.[citation needed]

Availability worldwide

Our Mate – jar of UK Made Marmite Spread branded for sale in Australia

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

In the United States, UK marmite can also be purchased in most CUB food stores, the international aisle of Kroger supermarkets, and some QFC supermarkets, where it is found in the baking section. Marmite purchased in New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands is New Zealand Marmite, which has its own distinctive taste.

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 & Ireland export division (Unilever UK & Ireland 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 & Ireland Export to sell Our Mate (Marmite) in Australia and New Zealand.

Marmite is also available to a lesser extent in other countries, mostly in specialist and health shops.

In Denmark, food safety legislation dictates that foodstuffs which contain added vitamins can only be sold by retailers which have been licensed by the Veterinary and Food Administration.[25] In May 2011, the company which 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.[26][27][28]

Special editions

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. 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 slightly more serious than the normal Marmite.

In January 2008 a new special edition, Champagne Marmite, was released for Valentine's Day 2008.[29] The limited-edition run of 600,000 units was initially released exclusively to Selfridges of London, then across the UK, from 21 January. With 0.3% champagne added to the recipe, the spread is effectively non-alcoholic, but does have a sweeter smell than the regular spread, a slightly lighter hue, 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 is decorated with italic writing and cherubs. The lid has also been made a golden colour to match the label, and altered to 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.

In 2009, a limited edition Marston's Pedigree Marmite was launched to celebrate the 2009 Ashes Cricket test series.[30]

In March 2010, Unilever released a specially-brewed extra-strong version of the spread called "Marmite XO".[31]

British product range

Jar varieties

  • Marmite 125g
  • Marmite 250g
  • Marmite 500g
  • Marmite 600g – (Catering size, in a plastic tub rather than the normal glass jar)
  • Marmite Love portions (6 x 8g) – (sold individually in some cafés)
  • Marmite Squeeze 200g
  • Marmite Big Squeeze 400g
  • Limited Edition Guinness Marmite 250g – white lid, white label, dark brown jar[32]
  • Limited Edition Champagne Marmite 250g – yellow lid, yellow label, dark brown jar[33]
  • Limited Edition Marston's Pedigree 250g – browny-gold lid, browny- gold label, dark red jar[34]
  • Marmite XO 250g – black lid, black label, dark brown jar[35]


  • Marmite Flavour Breadsticks 30g packets – [Paper Box][36]
  • Marmite Flavour Rice Cakes 30g packets (Black)[36]
  • Marmite Flavour Breadsticks 30g (Black)[36]
  • Marmite Flavour Rice Cakes 30g (Black)[36]
  • Marmite Flavour Crisps 25g (Black)[36]
  • Marmite Flavour Cheddar Circle Bites[37]
  • Marmite Oven Baked Cashew Nuts (Black)[36]
  • Marmite Flavour Cheddar Cheese (Black)[36]
  • Marmite Very Peculiar Milk Chocolate (Black)[38]

Marmite and mosquitoes

British travellers 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.[39] 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 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.

—George Jan Lerski, [40]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "The Marmite FAQ". Retrieved 30 September 2009. 
  2. ^ a b "Marmite". Retrieved 21 June 2009. 
  3. ^ a b ""Origins of the Design" (company website)". Retrieved 21 June 2009. 
  4. ^ a b "Marmite: Ten things you'll love/hate to know". BBC News. 25 May 2011. 
  5. ^ Marmite website
  6. ^ "The Marmite Story". Retrieved 21 June 2009. 
  7. ^ Sanitarium: Marmite FAQs.
  8. ^ "Center for Educational Advancement – VEGEX". 21 June 2010. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  9. ^ "Starbucks cheese and Marmite panini". Retrieved 21 June 2009. 
  10. ^ "Bite Me". Retrieved 29 November 2008. 
  11. ^ "Gary Rhodes's Marmite Menu". Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  12. ^ "Marmite ingredients (company web site)". Retrieved 21 June 2009. 
  13. ^ "Marmite Food brands Unilever". Retrieved 13 March 2010. 
  14. ^ "Bastian H (2007), ''Lucy Wills (1888–1964): The life and research of an adventurous independent woman'', The James Lind Library". Retrieved 21 June 2009. 
  15. ^ The Vegetarian Society – The Gluten-Free Diet
  16. ^ Nutrition. Retrieved on 27 November 2008.
  17. ^ "Marmite". Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  18. ^ Based on RDA of 1.5µg; see
  19. ^ "Marmite ads 'terrified' children". BBC News. 16 March 2005. Retrieved 21 June 2009. 
  20. ^ "Paddington Stars in a New Series of Marmite Ads". Archived from the original on 14 October 2007. Retrieved 7 October 2008. 
  21. ^ "Marmiteshop". Retrieved 8 March 2010. 
  22. ^ "Love it or hate it, but extra strong Marmite to go on sale". Daily Mail (UK). 28 February 2010. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  23. ^ Cath Kidston, appearing on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs programme in April 2010 described her shops as provoking a 'Marmite reaction':

    People either love it and want a little bit of it very much, or want to stab us.

    "Desert Island Discs: Cath Kidston". BBC. 29 April 2010. Retrieved 29 April 2011. 
  24. ^ "BNP facing Marmite legal action". BBC News. 22 April 2010. Retrieved 22 April 2010. 
  25. ^ "Marmite: Ten things you'll love/hate to know". BBC News. 25 May 2011. 
  26. ^ Heppenstall, Jason (24 May 2011). "Spread no more: Denmark bans Marmite". The Guardian (UK). 
  27. ^ "They definitely hate it! Denmark BANS Marmite... because it has too many vitamins". Daily Mail (UK). 25 May 2011. 
  28. ^ Waterfield, Bruno (25 May 2011). "Marmite made illegal in Denmark". The Daily Telegraph (UK). 
  29. ^ "Limited Edition Champagne Marmite". The Foodielist. 11 January 2008. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  30. ^ Wallop, Harry (1 June 2009). "Marmite limited-edition 'cricket spread' to celebrate Ashes". Telegraph (London: Telegraph Media Group). Retrieved 21 June 2009. 
  31. ^ "The Marmarati". Leatherhead, UK: Unilever. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  32. ^ "Marmite Guiness". Retrieved 21 June 2009. 
  33. ^ "Say I love you with Champagne Marmite". Thursday, 10 January 2008. Retrieved 21 June 2009. 
  34. ^ "Marmite launches limited edition cricket ball jar – Brand Republic News". Brand Republic. Retrieved 21 June 2009. 
  35. ^ "Marmite:MarmiteXO250g". Retrieved 8 March 2010. 
  36. ^ a b c d e f g "Marmite". Retrieved 21 June 2009. 
  37. ^ "Marmite launches Cheddar Bites". 21 December 2007. Retrieved 21 June 2009. 
  38. ^ "Marmite Very Peculiar Milk Chocolate". 22 October 2010. Retrieved 22 October 2010. 
  39. ^ "National Center for Biotechnology information "Testing vitamin B as a home remedy against mosquitoes"". 1 May 2009. Retrieved 21 June 2009. 
  40. ^ "Lerski: Origins of Trotskyism in Ceylon (Chap.1)". Retrieved 29 November 2008. 

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