Marmite has been manufactured since 1902, when the Marmite Food Extract Company was formed in Burton on Trent. A few years earlier a German scientist Justus von Liebig discovered that brewer’s yeast, a by-product of beer production, could be concentrated, bottled and then eaten. The Bass Brewery in Burton supplied the yeast for the manufacture by Marmite of the yeast extract.
Marmite is now one of the United Kingdom’s best known brand names and is clearly associated with the iconic glass jars containing the ‘dark, thick, yeast extract spread’. It is mostly used as a savoury spread on toast, bread, and crackers and as one ingredient in sandwiches. It is also recommended for adding flavour to stews, casseroles and gravy.
Marmite is no longer sold in dried cube form and most people will not have come across this product, which appears to have sold in the 1930s. The tin illustrated is therefore a rare and historically interesting object. The tin is just over five inches long and the six cubes contained in the tin were to make ‘a delicious and nourishing food drink’. They had the advantage of dissolving instantly in boiling water without the need to dice or crush them. The instructions also indicated that the cubes could add goodness and strength to soups, stews, sauces etc., but the Marmite sold in jars was the product to use for making sandwiches and for ‘when ordered for medicinal purposes’. The tin, if closed and stored properly could make the cubes last ‘indefinitely’. There were no ‘use by’ dates at that time!
Oxo cubes are much better known than Marmite cubes and have been manufactured since 1910. They can be used in a similar way, but like Bovril, now a stable-mate of Marmite, Oxo is a beef extract and not suitable for vegetarians. Most Marmite products are vegan.
The distinctive taste of Marmite divides opinion into ‘Lovers’ and ‘Haters’, so much so that the term Marmite is frequently used in relation to other products that divide opinion. This has been more of a publicity help than hindrance for the company.
Marmite comes in a range of sizes including 125g, 250g and 500g jars, 200g and 400g squeezy. In recent years new products have been marketed such as Marmite XO, which is stronger, a less salty version and Marmite Peanut Butter. Marmite flavouring has been added to potato crisps and even cocktails!