Marmite Is Scaling Back Production Due to Dwindling Yeast Supplies

The savory spread relies on brewers yeast to give it its polarizing flavor.

Before you read any further, just know that the following paragraphs will either contain the best news that you've heard in months, or it will just prove that 2020 has been the kind of year that ancient prophecies should have warned us about.

A man getting Marmite out of the jar with a knife.
Newscast / Contributor/Getty Images.

Marmite, the polarizing yeast spread has announced that it could be in short (or at least smaller) supply due to the effects of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. A few days ago, a British writer tweeted to the brand to ask where he could find more Marmite. "I need Marmite like oxygen and really need more 400g squeezy jars," Tim Robey wrote. "Can you advise on which retailers stock those at the moment?"

When the @Marmite account responded, it was with good-slash-bad news, depending on how you feel about the stuff. "Hi Tim, due to brewers yeast being in short supply (one of the main ingredients in Marmite) Supplies of Marmite have been affected," it wrote. "As a temporary measure we have stopped production of all sizes apart from our 250g size jar which is available in most major retailers."

That's right, Marmite lovers: due to a combination of factors including the temporary closure of some breweries, the ongoing closure of British pubs, and a decrease in the amount of beer being brewed, there is a shortage of brewer's yeast. ("All four horsemen at once," Robey joked in a follow-up tweet.)

It's bad timing for Marmite, especially since the spread seemed to be getting a lot of extra love lately—or at least a few more spinoffs. Last Christmas, British supermarket chain Iceland released limited-edition bags of frozen "Marmite Sprouts," which were, as the name suggests, Brussels sprouts that had probably been dragged kicking and screaming through a Marmite glaze. And earlier this year, the Unilever-owned brand launched its second Marmite and peanut butter combination (yes, we just made that same face), which put a smooth spread on the same shelves with its already-available crunchy version.

This isn't the first time that Brits have been threatened with a potential Marmite shortage: in late 2016, the value of the British pound fell sharply following the Brexit vote, and Unilever said that, as a result, it would be raising the prices of some of its products in the United Kingdom. The Tesco supermarket chain took issue with that decision and pulled a number of Unilever items—including everything from Marmite to Ben & Jerry's ice cream to Hellmann's mayonnaise—from its website. (They were still available in stores.)

"This is such a large event that it may simply be that the two gorillas on both sides have decided to go through the motions of the negotiation on behalf of the industry," one analyst told the BBC at the time. "This isn't about Tesco or Unilever but about all UK retailers and suppliers."

The standoff between the two companies was short-lived, and all of that Unilever stuff was eventually back on Tesco's website. As of this writing, it currently has small 250-gram jars of Marmite, both kinds of Marmite Peanut Butter, extra-strong Marmite XO, and Marmite-spiked cashew nuts, flatbread crackers, and rice cakes. If that's your kind of thing, it probably wouldn't hurt to pick up an extra jar.

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