'Marmageddon' sends NZ into a spin

By Hana Garrett-Walker

No Marmite on the shelves at an Auckland supermarket. Photo / APNZ
No Marmite on the shelves at an Auckland supermarket. Photo / APNZ

It was one simple warning - ration Marmite and yet it has sent the country into a spin as 'Marmageddon' takes hold.

Supermarket shelves are being stripped bare, while opportunists turn to TradeMe in the hope of making a quick buck in selling their precious stash.

Marmite maker Sanitarium yesterday warned no more Marmite was being made as production of the popular spread was halted due to earthquake damage discovered at Sanitarium's Christchurch plant - the only plant where Marmite is made.

The news gets worse for Marmite lovers, with the possibility that the Kiwi favourite would not be back on shelves until mid-July, Sanitarium general manager Pierre van Heerden said.

"I've challenged [the engineers] to try and crash those timelines to do everything they can to get it out sooner. We're hoping that something can be done.''

Social network websites went into a frenzy yesterday when the news broke that consumers needed to ration their Marmite usage, and now almost 100 jars are up for sale on TradeMe.

So far, the highest bid to reach reserve is a 1.2kg jar which is currently selling for $60.

An ambitious seller was asking for $3500 for their supply, but no one had bid on that auction.

Even semi-used jars were for sale on the auction site, with one Te Kuiti seller asking $100 for a third-full jar.

TradeMe spokesman Paul Ford said Marmite had been the most searched term on the website in the past 24 hours.

"About 60 people have looked to cash in their Marmite supplies in the wake of the news about the looming Marmite drought,'' he said.

Marmite was listed on TradeMe from time to time, but there would usually be less than 10 listings of run-of-the-mill Marmite at any given time.

"Massive interest in the modern-day version of the product is not something we've seen before.''

Mr van Heerden said certain stores had less stock than others, and he was anticipating some stores to have run out by now.

But any rumours the Marmite shortage was a marketing stunt to make further sales was "absolutely not'' true, he said.

Twitter users were yesterday suggesting it was a publicity stunt by Sanitarium after pre-prepared "Marmite is out of stock'' signs were spotted in anticipation of the shortage, but Mr van Heerden said this was not the case.

"We don't engage in that type of marketing and we're a company with high ethics, and we wouldn't go out there with something like this as part of a marketing campaign, so there's absolutely no truth to it whatsoever.''

A spokeswoman for Foodstuffs, which runs Pak'n Save and New World supermarkets, said there was a rush in Marmite buying yesterday.

Around the country Foodstuffs' supermarkets had limited supplies of Marmite, but she could not provide specific details on numbers.

Progressive Enterprises, which owns Countdown supermarkets, said it anticipated running out of Marmite in all of its stores in the next two to three weeks.

But it would not enforce a purchase limit, merchandise general manager Murray Johnston said.

Countdown's online shop still had 250g jars of the spread available, at $4.25 a jar.

But a website which exports New Zealand items to the rest of the world has sold out of the distinct spread.

A 250g jar of it was for sale on website productsfromnz.com for US$7.95 (NZ$9.63), but the website reports it is currently out of stock.

However, if you are willing to fork out a bit extra, website shopnewzealand.co.nz has a 500g jar going for US$14.80 (NZ$17.90).

Twitter has been abuzz with the news, with Marmite and Vegemite both sitting near the top of the trend list all day.

The news has also made it to the other side of the world, with CNN, the Guardian, Daily Mail and the Independent all reporting New Zealand's shortage.

But for those willing to jump ship, Vegemite supply is aplenty, or there's always the British alternative.

For those feeling very brave, why not give homemade Marmite a go. (Sourced from marmitelover.blogspot.co.nz)

Ingredients _

A litre of Brewer's yeast (top fermentation from a brewery)

A little sea salt

1 onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 turnip, diced

1/2 celery stick, diced

Method -

1) Put a litre of brewer's yeast with a little salt, in a bain-marie. Simmer at 30 to 40 degrees Celsius for ten hours.

2) Simmer this mixture at 50 to 60 degrees Celsius for two to three hours.

3) Boil at low temperature 90 degrees Celsius for half an hour.

4) Filter though coffee papers or a sieve and cheesecloth.

5) Let it cool for a day or so.

6) Filter again.

7) Put it in a large flat pan and simmer to create a paste.

8) Meanwhile boil up all the vegetables until they are cooked. Strain off the liquid and incorporate into the Marmite paste.

9) Let the mixture reduce into a Marmite like texture.

The entire process takes about ten days.

- APNZ

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