Marmite remains a mysterious substance to most people in the States, who might know it vaguely as a dark brown spread that’s popular on toast and is related to Vegemite. However, if at some point you’ve lived in or paid a long visit to the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, or the Pacific Islands, you know that there are actually two products named Marmite, and that the battle for the one true version rages on.
Pizza Hut New Zealand recently added a Marmite-stuffed crust to their menu. For the unfamiliar, we’ve put together a brief guide to Marmite.
Named for the large earthenware pots in which it was originally stored, Marmite was invented in the late 19th century by German scientist, Justus von Liebig. Marmite is made from yeast extract, a by-product of beer brewing. In 1902, the Gilmour family of England formed the Marmite Food Extract Company, with the yeast by-product supplied by Bass Brewery.
British Marmite is an intensely salty, dark brown paste that is often used as a thin savory spread on toast and crackers. Starbucks in the UK offers a cheese and Marmite panini.
During WWI, British troops received Marmite as part of their rations, and housewives were encouraged at home to “use it sparingly just now.”
In 1908, the Sanitarium Health Food Company obtained the sole rights to distribute Marmite in New Zealand and Australia, and began manufacturing a modified version that includes sugar and caramel. New Zealand Marmite is described as having a weaker and less tangy flavor than the original.
Lastly, because Sanitarium has exclusive rights to the Marmite name in Australasia, British Marmite is sold locally as Our Mate.
And now, you’re probably wondering, what is Vegemite?