Marmite has been a popular spread for the last 118 years. While there are ‘Bovril’ people and ‘Marmite’ people, South Africans seem to err on the side of Bovril (with two thirds of the sales leaning in that direction.)

However, the South African Marmite  fans have been wondering what happened to their favourite spread as it slowly disappeared off shelves during lockdown. All4Women chatted to the manufacturers to find out why Marmite has ‘disappeared’, and whether or not it will be back.

The spread was first manufactured in 1902 by the UK Unilever, and was bought over by Pioneer Foods in around 2005, according to Mandy Murphy,  Managing Executive,  Foods Portfolio at Pioneer Foods. The manufacturer also bought Bovril at around the same time.

Lockdown (and the booze ban) took its toll on production

“The last few months have been tough at our Marmite factory because we were unable to procure any supply of spent yeast – a key ingredient – during the lockdown period,” says Murphy.

“This is because two of our key suppliers of yeast in South Africa, AB-Inbev and Heineken were not permitted to operate.”

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The manufacturer decided to prioritise the production of Bovril during the lockdown period as it requires far less yeast to produce. According to Murphy, yeast cannot be stockpiled as it is a live product.

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So what exactly is Marmite?

Murphy explains that it is a “food spread made from yeast extract. It was invented in the late 19th century by German scientist Justus von Liebig and originally made in the United Kingdom. It contains B Vitamins, and is 100% vegetarian.”

When can Marmite lovers expect to see it back on the shelves?

Now that the booze ban has been lifted, breweries have started up again. However, it took about two weeks to build up a sufficient stock of spent yeast that could be used for Marmite and Bovril, according to Murphy.

“The Marmite machines are once again operational. Production started on both the 25g (two  weeks ago)  and the 250g (last week), so it is filtering back into trade,” assures Murphy.

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