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March 15, 2006

Marmite: Disaster!

I’m going to have to revise my opinion of these newspaper weblogs I think. Rather than just being journos tapping into the latest buzz I have actually found one that provided news of the gravest import.
Seriously, civilisation is at stake here, the world as we know it being undermined. From one of the Telegraph blogs:

Just to make me appear an even sadder case, I was further distressed to read on my flight to Milan this afternoon that the makers of Marmite are planning to put it into squeezy tubes, abandoning the traditional thick brown glass jars it has been stored in for as long as I can remember.

The manufacturers say in their defence that the tubes are all about "versatility" and getting rid of the 'crumbs-in-the-jar' scenario which has apparently been upsetting consumers for years.

But anyone who is familiar with Marmite - a very salty yeast extract of a thick consistency, which British children typically eat on thin strips of bread known as 'soldiers' - will know that it can't possibly be squeezed out of a tube. Not unless the makers change its consistency.

And sure enough, that is the plan. It's to be thinned down! It's worse than when they swapped the name "Marathon" for "Snickers".

Yes, I know the stuff is simply boiled yeast with salt, I’m aware that 90% of those who’ve ever had it would pay not to have it again but I’m part of the other 10%: those for whom Marmite is an essential part of life. Those for whom that brown jar with the yellow top nestling on the shelf (and in the years of exile, the second unopened one behind it) provide a welcome sense of security.

As I’ve said here before, the  biggest domestic happened when  the wife, lovely and delightful though she is, dropped a new 1 lb jar: at least one commenter said that was grounds for divorce.

It also strikes me as a somewhat foolish business decision. The art of brand management is to extend such brands across ever more products, product differentiation, not to change the basic brand itself. They should, rather, make Marmite and New Marmite, extending choice to the consumer and thus, one would assume, sales and thus profits.

But bugger the business in this case, bugger free markets and capitalism, lay aside all I hold dear about economics and nationalize the bastards.

Change Marmite? No way! What’s the bloody point of a Labour government if they won’t intervene to save such a national treasure?

March 15, 2006 in The English | Permalink


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*FAR* more serious than tinkering with the Radio 4 Theme IMHO!

Besides, there's something fun about crumbs in the jar, especially when you live alone and you know they're *your* crumbs. There's a sort of game to be had trying to catch them all in the next knifeload whilst not leaving too many new ones!

Posted by: Jock Coats | Mar 15, 2006 9:35:14 AM

The report I read yesterday seemed to suggest this would be an addition, not a replacement?

Have you ever been to Burton on Trent? The whole town smells of marmite (or at least the industrial area where my hotel was did).

Tim adds: Marmite production and breweries would small quite similar: all that yeast. Which is of course why Marmite is made in a famous brewing town...from the leftover yeast, at least originally.

Posted by: Matthew | Mar 15, 2006 9:57:43 AM

After Bovril was made vegetarian nothing would surprise me - I'm hoarding a couple of jars of the real stuff.
And I took out a "best before 05" tin of Heinz tomato soup yesterday - the sort before they let the health fascists tinker with the recipe - not many left in the store room, special occasions only.

Posted by: The Englishman | Mar 15, 2006 10:28:34 AM

As far as I can tell this story is entirely accurate. Well done.

Posted by: ajay | Mar 15, 2006 10:46:25 AM

So the deperate scraping of the knife in an empty jar is to be replaced by vein-popping grimaces as you squeeze the tube just that little bit harder for your last fix...doesn't sound like progress to me.

Posted by: Infoholic UK | Mar 15, 2006 12:14:32 PM


Was reminded of an anecdote in a book by an ex-Army officer in Bosnia, Trusted Mole. Meeting a Russian officer during lunch, the latter enquired what was the stuff he was spreading on his bread. He replied that it was the reason the UK had had an Empire, all British children had been raised on it for it's healthy properties, and , morever, it could even be used to grease tank tracks! Needless to say, the Russian spat out his sample!


Posted by: Rupert Fiennes | Mar 15, 2006 2:04:45 PM

Anyone who suffers from the crumbs-in-the-jar problem either likes their Marmite that way or lacks the proper spread etiquette. For the former there is no problem and for the latter, their poor manners render them inconsequential to the debate.

Alas I fear this explaination is simply a canard to gull the public into accepting yet another assault on Englishness.

I suspect that in order to reduce the viscosity of Marmite and hence make it tube deliverable the marmiteers of Burton would have to leave more water in the product. Since I imagine the water is removed by the culinary process of reduction (boiling it off, for those unused to kitchen technicalities) this would be viewed as a production cost.

Am I wrong in seeing the dread hand of the accountant in this despicable crime?

(A recent convert to Marmite since Bovril became a soap dodging tofu freindly spread)

Posted by: The Remittance Man | Mar 15, 2006 9:20:39 PM

Considering that your Labor government has done its level best to get rid of singsongs in pubs, foxhunting, and the House of Lords, did you really think that Marmite would be spared? No English national treasure or quirk will be spared. They probably rubbed out Douglas Adams, too.

Maybe you can move to Alberta and start some kind of Marmite sanctuary or theme park.

Posted by: Maureen | Mar 16, 2006 3:47:23 AM

As a side note I've noticed that since the news that Bovril was going vegetarian it has been getting scarcer on South African shop shelves. It seems that at least one part of the Commonwealth is managing to retain its standards and rejects the bastardisation of an imperial staple.

I can only trust that they will refuse to stock the Marmite flavoured toothpaste as well. This will be a sacrifice, but there is a principle involved here.


Posted by: The Remittance Man | Mar 16, 2006 7:03:26 AM

RM - you do realise don't you that Marmite is a staple in any half decent soap dodger's tofu-friendly cupboard? It being completely vegetarian and rich in Vitamin B. Just saying.

Posted by: Katherine | Mar 16, 2006 11:16:27 AM

What I heard is that Marmite is to be available in both "traditional jar" and "squeezy bottle" form. The only jar to be dropped is the incy mincy one for wimps who only eat it once a year.

Posted by: Francis | Mar 16, 2006 12:28:26 PM

Katherine? Can't stand the stuff, and aren't likely to start using Bovril anytime soon either.

I can only assume I'm not half decent. Then again, I think we knew that already.

Posted by: MatGB | Mar 17, 2006 5:53:26 AM


Mussolini made the trains run on time; soap dodging tofu knitters eat Marmite. Even people I disagree with an do the "right" thing sometimes. I guess that's all part of what makes humanity such a marvelous concept.

I haven't found any common ground with NuLabour yet, but, then again, I sort of suspect they aren't really human anyway :-)


Posted by: The Remittance Man | Mar 18, 2006 8:17:56 AM