What is Marmite?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Marmite is a type of thick, dark brown spread that is closely associated with Great Britain. The savory spread is made from a concentrated yeast sludge, a byproduct of the beer brewing process. The strong and very distinctive flavor has made it rather famous, as consumers are either horrified by it or quite fond of it. In Britain, many people are fed Marmite as young children, and therefore grow up loving it. Adults who are introduced to the spread have been known to have less favorable reactions.

Marmite is commonly consumed by children in Britain.
Marmite is commonly consumed by children in Britain.

Several products are manufactured and sold around the world as “Marmite.” Britons believe that the superior product comes from the Burton-on-Trent factory where it was first manufactured in 1902 by the Marmite Company. A series of sales led to the brand being acquired by Unilever in 2000. Consumers who are concerned about getting the authentic British version can closely examine the label on the product in question to determine the nation of origin.

Yeast sludge leftover from the beer brewing process may be used to make Marmite.
Yeast sludge leftover from the beer brewing process may be used to make Marmite.

Several companies also make products which are similar to Marmite, using a basic formulation of brewer's yeast and other ingredients. Vegemite is a famous Australian and New Zealander incarnation of the spread, for example. Promite and Bovril are also similar products. Like Marmite, these spreads are supplemented with vitamins, especially B12, and are therefore excellent dietary supplements.

Marmite may be enjoyed on toast.
Marmite may be enjoyed on toast.

To make Marmite, the company uses yeast sludge leftover from the beer brewing process. The yeast is specially treated, mixed with salt, vegetable extracts, vitamins, and other proprietary ingredients, and packaged for sale. When it was sold initially, it was packaged in small ceramic jars that resembled a French casserole dish known as a marmite. This may explain the origins of the name. The glass jars currently in use are designed to mimic the original ceramic ones in shape. The ceramic jar is also featured on the distinctive yellow and red label.

The company's slogan is “Love it or hate it,” reflecting the conflicted public opinion of Marmite. Public demand for the totally vegan product appears to have remained steady, suggesting that it will always be found on the shelves of British grocery stores. The company also exports to several nations around the world, including former British colonies such as the United States and Hong Kong. Several sizes of jar are available, including a squeezable jar that contains a thinner version of the spread. Consumers should use Marmite with care, as even most die-hard fans admit that the flavor can be overwhelming. A thin layer can be spread on toast with butter, or included in sandwiches.

Brewer's yeast, which is included in Marmite.
Brewer's yeast, which is included in Marmite.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon273841

Marmite is delicious spread thinly on dry toast!

anon189754

I do not like it.

anon179021

Marmite is awesome. I love it. But don't eat too much at once.

anon91860

Marmite is vegan! Yeast is just a cell; it is actually not a living thing with emotions.

anon83241

Marmite being made of yeast cannot be vegan -- vegetarian maybe, but not vegan.

anon56479

This is a very good article, with one incidental error. Bovril is also savoury (English spelling) but is very different as it is made from beef and so very much not vegetarian.

In recent times, Unilever, the Marmite manufacturer, who also makes Bovril, withdrew the beef extract content from Bovril, suggesting that consumers would not tell the difference between Marmite and Bovril. Evidently they could, because within a year or so, Bovril was again back on the shelves as a beef based product.

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