Where’d the Marmite go?!

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Jars of Marmite (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
Jars of Marmite (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

Kick us when we’re down, why don’t you. Just when you thought 2020 had done its worst, another shock lay in store: South Africa is experiencing a chronic Marmite shortage.

Faced with empty shop shelves, Marmite-lovers have taken to social media to ask where the all-time-favourite bread-spread has gone. So addicted are some to this salty sandwich fave, they’re buying Marmite “second-hand” from others – regardless of whether the jar had been opened or not.

So where did all the Marmite go?

 (Photo: Supplied)
Empty shelves where the Marmite usually is. Bovril, a similar spread, uses far less yeast in the production process – which is why it’s still available – and some Marmite-lovers have now been forced to switch. (Photo: Supplied)

The answer is a shortage of yeast, the main ingredient in Marmite. It also happened to be the main ingredient in homemade beer – to which many desperate South Africans resorted during the alcohol prohibition of earlier levels of lockdown.

And because so many thousands of people were buying all the yeast they could lay their hands on, the production of Marmite has suffered.

It’s a tragic sight: the shelves that used to be packed with Marmite jars, empty.

Deborah-Ann Sharwood, communications director at Marmite producer PepsiCo SSA, says the past six months have been tough on Marmite factories because they struggled to get sufficient yeast during the national lockdown.

“Two of our suppliers in SA, AB InBev and Heineken breweries, weren’t allowed to do business under the strict lockdown regulations.

“We also couldn’t stock up on yeast because it’s a fungus. We had no other choice but to suspend production of Marmite for a period of time.”

How long before you can have a Marmite sarmie again?

As lockdown regulations eased, factories steadily started production again. It takes about two weeks to procure enough yeast to continue with production.

“The good news is that the production of the 125g Marmite jars started up again in late September, and production of the 250g jar restarted in the first week of October,” Deborah-Ann says.

She assures worried Marmite-lovers that the product will soon be widely available again.

“We know many are missing their favourite spread, so we’re really happy the long wait is almost over.”

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