New Zealanders are being urged to spread their Marmite more thinly as manufacturers warn of an imminent national shortage of the spread.
Marmite production has been suspended since the closure of the Christchurch plant that produces the yeast-extract spread in November last year after a tower was found to have been damaged by the earthquake.
New Zealand has its own Marmite recipe and the much-loved flavor is different from the British version, which therefore would not do as a substitute.
The plant, the sole source of the spread for Australia and New Zealand, was not expected to reopen until July, said Pierre van Heerden, general manager for manufacturer Sanitarium.
Supermarkets were already reporting that they had run out of some sizes and remaining stocks could be exhausted within weeks, he said.
Even New Zealand Prime Minister John Key yesterday complained his personal supplies of Marmite were dwindling. Key said the shortage was already impacting on the prime ministerial breakfast.
“I’m going to have to go thin I’m afraid. I have a very small amount in my office and once that runs out I’m obviously aware that supplies are very short,” Key told TV3 yesterday.
Van Heerden, speaking to Radio New Zealand at breakfast time on Monday morning, encouraged Marmite eaters to temporarily minimize the amount used and to choose toast over bread.
“With toast it’s a little bit warmer so it spreads easier and it goes a little bit further. What we’re asking consumers if maybe they could have their Marmite on toast, ration it a little bit, maybe only have it once a day or every second day,” he said.
However, there was no need for alarm in the long term, Van Heerden said.
“We will get Marmite back. Consumers don’t have to worry about that or freak out about it,” he said.
The online political betting site iPredict invited wagers on whether Marmite would be formally rationed by supermarkets. Late on Monday, it was pointing to a 70 percent probability of such a move.
The shortage is unlikely to be as keenly felt across the Tasman Sea, where the rival Vegemite is a more popular and patriotic choice — as most recently evidenced in former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd’s description of himself as “a happy little Vegemite.”
Key, however, revealed that he was also a fan of Vegemite.
“I’ve got to be honest I can eat Vegemite as well. I’m a consumer that can move between brands, I’m ashamed to say it,” he said.
Supplies of British Marmite are unaffected, but that will do nothing to sate anxious Marmite aficianados in Australasia, where the spread has been produced locally since World War II. The recipe was originally based on the British original, but over the decades the taste of the two sticky spreads have diverged considerably.