Auckland stores are forbidden to sell British-made Marmite. Hayley Hannan looks into the issue that's leaving a bad taste in some ex-pats' mouths.

For Kate Sanderson, the dark brown spread is a taste of home. There's no substitute for the salty taste of the British Marmite she loves.

"It's stronger. Oh, I was brought up on it, so it was like everyday breakfast. There's nothing here that's the same. The Vegemite is alright, but I think the Marmite is foul."

Ms Sanderson is one of many British expats who have to go without their coveted spread. Sanitarium owns the trademark for the Marmite name. It can, and will, use intellectual property laws to stop any product being sold in New Zealand under the name.

Advertisement

The English Corner Shop in Onehunga received a legal letter from Sanitarium ordering it to cease stocking the product. Owner Graham Lane refuses to comment on the details of the letter, but says: "We do get a lot of customers who are pretty peeved. I think it's a case of being told that we can't import this when [his shop] had been doing it for a while."

Mr Lane received the letter more than a year ago, and has stopped importing the black spread. "They have got what they say, so hey, what can you do? You live and learn."

United Kingdom speciality grocer Bramptins has also recently been warned to stop selling the product. Its four Auckland stores pulled British-made Marmite from their shelves, but the company refuses to says why it has been withdrawn.

Intellectual Property Office database records confirm Sanitarium holds the naming rights of Marmite. Sanitarium senior product manager Hayley Findlay issued a statement to

The Aucklander

: "The importation and distribution of the English-sourced products branded Marmite constitutes infringements of Sanitarium's trademark registration."

Meanwhile, another yeasty spread has appeared on some supermarket shelves. Ted Baghurst, an APN photographer, buys Our Mate. He says the brown spread tastes the same as British Marmite, and is sold in similar small yellow pots.

Other expats are turning to overseas links to supply them directly with their favourite spread. While the product can't be sold, it can be brought into the country. Customs communications manager Rowan McArthur says New Zealand border patrols can't stop the product, so travellers returning from the UK can bring pots with them.

Advertisement

Mrs Sanderson says her cousins will bring a shipment of the black spread in January, and she's "really excited".