Nicholas Jones

Nicholas Jones is the New Zealand Herald’s education reporter.

Marmite crisis: SOS for autistic boy

Louise Martin and her autistic son Daniel, who is sensitive to foods and eats Marmite every day.  Photo / Supplied
Louise Martin and her autistic son Daniel, who is sensitive to foods and eats Marmite every day. Photo / Supplied

A mother whose autistic son eats Marmite daily has had an SOS call answered after a desperate dash to supermarkets failed to turn up the yeast spread.

Louise Martin, of Massey, said she now had about 3kg worth of Marmite stockpiled after friends from across the country sent her whatever jars they could find.

The amount will be enough to see her 7-year-old son Daniel, who has food sensitivities and is attached to the flavour, smell, and texture of Marmite, through until production resumes mid-July.

"Our crisis is over. But I was rather concerned.

"With autism the change is the worst part for any autistic child ... if you have the chance to do it gradually, great. The trouble was I was down to less than a quarter of a jar."

Shelves around the country have been stripped of Marmite after news of its shortage broke on Monday. Herald readers have reported more than 100 supermarkets or stores are completely out of stock, with others fast running out as people buy up.

Ms Martin said the first thing she did when Marmageddon dawned on Monday was jump in the car and drive to four neighbourhood supermarkets, all of which were out of stock.

Increasingly panicked, she called Sanitarium and Progressive Enterprises head offices, and raced to Gilmours - to find only expensive trays of Marmite sachets were left, "so I grabbed three trays".

An online plea was soon answered by friends and acquaintances, with jars sent from across Auckland, Levin, Nelson and Napier. Sanitarium is also sending emergency supplies.

"I'm now getting four 250g jars from a lady in Kohimarama. And a friend in Levin is sending me six 175g jars ... I will have a little collection, and it will do us."

While Ms Martin knew Marmageddon was light-hearted for most, she labelled those selling the spread on Trade Me mercenary.

"[The sellers] are much like farmers that take advantage of a drought and sell on bales of hay at exorbitant prices."

Yesterday a search for Marmite brought up 297 listings on Trade Me, with 1.2kg jars attracting bids upwards of $100 and smaller pots with "buy now" prices in the hundreds of dollars.

Gilmours Hamilton has put up for auction a 25kg pail of Marmite, with all proceeds donated to a charity of the buyer's choosing.

The winner will walk away with a 175g jar and the much larger pail, "so that you can refill your prized purchase in the comfort of your own home," says the auction.

Gilmours owner Rick Donaldson told the Herald his staff were having lunch on Tuesday and laughing about the prices people were asking for Marmite when they realised they had a spare 25kg.

"From there, the ball got rolling very quickly. One of the guys went and found it, pulled it out of hiding and cleaned it up for a photoshoot."

The pail would normally sell for $285, but it is hoped it will raise thousands at auction.

Placed on Trade Me at about 5pm on Tuesday, the auction attracted more than 70 bids, topping $400 last night.

- NZ Herald

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