Marmite is back on the shelves, but get your fix quickly as supplies are tight

11 May 2022 - 14:30
By Hilary Biller
Marmite is back on the shelves but stock is limited.
Image: 123RF/stu49 Marmite is back on the shelves but stock is limited.

I should have guessed the busy huddle around the spreads section in the relatively quiet supermarket on a recent early morning was a gathering of shoppers ensuring they got their share of the popular sticky brown yeast extract Marmite — the good old-fashioned one, not the newer version that has gone all cheesy.

As a Marmite lover — you either love it or loathe it — because of the shortage, I am slowly finding the more meaty Bovril is growing on me. However, I made sure I gathered a few bottles of the spread after stocks have been erratic over the past two years.

There have been many times when there has been no Marmite in stock — follow the moans and groans of the Marmite trail on Facebook — or low stock which disappears quickly, such is the popularity of the product.

Judging by how speedily shoppers were loading up with Marmite I think we’d all learnt from the experience of the sudden disappearance of another SA favourite, Pecks and Redro Anchovette, and how quickly that vanished from our lives, never to return.

We learnt late last year that Pioneer Foods, the manufacturers of Marmite, had decided to discontinue supply because of the decline in demand for fish paste. A bit of a difficult one to swallow considering the outcry. In early 2022 there was none of the fish spread left to buy.

Pioneer’s stock retort to queries regarding the lack of  supply of Marmite has been to blame it on the lack of “spent yeast”, a by-product of the beer-making process, due to the alcohol bans during the coronavirus pandemic. It is the vital ingredient in the 100% vegetarian and Halaal yeast extract spread. Apart from the popularity as a bread and toast spread, Marmite is a popular flavourant used to “beef up” vegetarian dishes.

The good news from Pioneer is that it is back, but they warn shoppers to be quick because demand outstrips supply. Low stocks, according to reports, are due to the recent floods in KwaZulu-Natal and the effect on the supply of spent yeast from the SAB brewery in Prospecton in Durban. 

Another ingredient in short supply is food-grade soda ash, a neutralising agent used in the making of Marmite. This is because of factory closures in China with producers in Turkey filling the gap in global supply. 

Some sceptics say the shortage over the past two years may be a great way to boost sales. Food for thought.