Marmite’s worst nightmare—Vegemite—has the upper hand in the South Pacific battle for toast-spread supremacy. As New Zealanders struggle through a nationwide shortage of Marmite, a thick, black salty spread made from yeast extract most commonly eaten on bread, some have resorted to eating Vegemite (gasp!), the Australian take on the same idea.
The February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch damaged the country’s only Marmite factory, which closed in November for repairs and won’t open again until July. The acute shortage of the powerfully distinct Marmite has turned to “Marmageddon” across the country as some parts of New Zealand have completely run out and others struggle to keep any jars on grocery shelves. Those still with supplies fear hoarders will pilfer the rest of the stock.
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Prime Minister John Key has called for Kiwis to ration themselves, suggesting spreading the savory mixture thinner. Marmite’s producer, Sanitarium, says the warmer the toast, the easier to spread the thick substance thin.
Consumer experts believe New Zealand’s Marmite, which differs slightly from the British version, will now get rationed, and a black market for the black substance will continually emerge.
But Key rattled more than a few toasters when he announced he could also eat Vegemite to get through the trying times. The Telegraph reports him as saying, “I’m a consumer that can move between brands, I’m ashamed to say it.”
Marketed with the tagline “you either love it or hate it,” Marmite shortages will only be temporary, promises the makers. And it’s a good thing, otherwise far more Kiwis than just Key may turn to Vegemite.