Marmite flies off shelves while traders cash in

A sign at Miramar New World in Wellington yesterday.
A sign at Miramar New World in Wellington yesterday.

Marmite has been flying off supermarket shelves after its maker warned a shortage was unavoidable.

Traders are also cashing in on the Marmite crisis, asking as much as $800 for a jar of the black gold on Trade Me.

Manufacturer Sanitarium has warned New Zealand's stock of the breakfast favourite is expected to run out within weeks.

The company has suspended production until July after earthquake damage to a cooling tower at the company's Christchurch factory rendered the nearby Marmite building unsafe.

News of Marmite's temporary demise has spread through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter like hot butter on toast, with "Marmite" and "Marmageddon" trending nationwide. Already established Facebook pages - both pro and anti Marmite - are attracting thousands more followers.

The story has gone global, with UK newspapers The Guardian and the Daily Mail both reporting on New Zealand's shocked reaction to the shortage and advising expats to start stocking up.

Foodstuffs, which owns the New World, Pak'n'Save and Four Square brands, said Marmite had been flying off the shelves since news of the shortage broke.

Spokeswoman Antoinette Shallue said their supply was dwindling.

"I can confirm there was a rush on Marmite yesterday - clearly Kiwis took the news of the impending shortage very seriously, but we still have limited supplies in our distribution centres."

On Trade Me, dozens of auctions popped up, for both new and used jars of Marmite.

Trade Me spokesman Paul Ford confirmed there were 67 auctions on the site today.

"At last count, there were 67 listings for Marmite "black gold" - normally six would be a lot so there has been an explosion of Marmite on Trade Me for sure."

Ford said the topic was also one of the most searched items on Trade Me. "We can't remember Marmite being on that list before".

He said there there was also more than 50 threads on the Trade Me message board with hundreds of members discussing the "marmageddon" issue.

One seller in Hamilton had a buy-now listing of $800 for an unopened 250g jar. The auction had not gained any bids this morning, but had attracted a number of questions.

Another listing, urging bidders not to "settle for someone's half eaten butter stained Marmite" had received four bids this morning, and was sitting at about $10 for two unopened 250g jars. The reserve, however, had not been met at 8am.

Countdown's online store is now only selling 250g pots of Marmite at $4.25.


Even Prime Minister John Key is not immune.

The Prime Minister told TV3's Firstline programme he had to follow Sanitarium's advice to spread thinly "only on toast".

"I only have got a very small amount in my office and once that runs out I'm aware supplies are very short," he said.

But in a confession perhaps showing Key's centrist tendencies, he admitted he can also eat Marmite's rival, Vegemite.

"I am a consumer who can move between brands. I'm ashamed to say it, but I can eat both."

Sanitarium general manager Pierre van Heerden yesterday recommended enjoying the spread on toast, not bread, as the heat would melt the Marmite and stretch it further.

Polling on Marmite rationing also opened yesterday, with iPredict offering punters $1 for the correct guess on whether either Foodstuffs or Progressive Enterprises place restrictions on the number of jars a customer can buy before August 1.

Oliver Ibbetson, iPredict's adminsitrator, said there had been heavy trading on the stock from their 6000 registered users.

"After being launched at just 20c - indicating a 20 per cent probability of rationing - the stock passed 90c,  indicating a 90 per cent probability of rationing."

Progressive Enterprises, which owns Countdown, confirmed yesterday they would not start rationing, but expected to run out of stock in all its supermarkets within two weeks.

The Christchurch plant produces about 640,000kg of Marmite every year.