Marmite vs Vegemite: A Twitter war to savour

The Australians are as proud of their Vegemite (right) as the British are fond of Marmite.
The Australians are as proud of their Vegemite (right) as the British are fond of Marmite. PHOTOS: EPA, ST FILE

People in the United Kingdom woke up on Thursday (Oct 13) to an alarming shortage of their iconic breakfast spread - Marmite.

The British staple was taken off the online store of the largest supermarket in the country, Tesco, after a reported row with supplier Unilever over price increases when the pound plummeted on fears over Britain's plans to leave the European Union.

A quick check on Oct 14 on the Tesco online store revealed that jars of Marmite were "currently not available".

The headline "Marmite Wars" appeared on the Metro newspaper front page. The story also made The Times' front page and BBC television news.

It may be hard for Singaporeans to imagine the scale of such a move, but just imagine if the iconic kaya spread here was pulled from the shelves of major supermarkets.

1. So, what exactly is Marmite?

The dark-coloured spread first hit the shelves more than a century ago.

It is spread on bread and crackers like a jam, but it is thick and pungent in smell and flavour.

 
 

It is made from concentrated yeast extract left over from the beer brewing process. Mix in vegetable and spice extracts, and you get the recognisable saltiness.

Even though Marmite is a British product, it has a French name. Marmite is French for cooking pot.

Like Brexit, Marmite has a polarising effect - you either love it or hate it.

Marmite sold here in Singapore is identical to the British product.

In recent years, limited-edition Marmite flavours have been produced, containing special ingredients such as yeast from Guinness stout brewing, champagne, gold flakes or multiple yeast extract sources. An example of the latter is Marmite XO, which is also aged to develop the flavour.

2. Why are the Australians involved?

Down Under, the Aussies are as proud of their Vegemite as the Brits are fond of Marmite.

Vegemite is also made principally from yeast extract, salt and barley malt. It is said to be slightly runnier and less aggressive in flavour than many of the other yeast spreads.

Some have endeavoured to take blind taste tests of Marmite and Vegemite.

This has sparked a long-brewing rivalry between fans of the two yeast extracts, while the rest of the world looks on in bewilderment.

A third contender in the yeast wars is Bovril.

Unlike the other two which are vegetarian, Bovril consists of beef extract.

The Singaporean version of Bovril sold in major supermarkets here however, is vegetarian. Said to be syrupy and slightly grainy, it has a "biscuity" aroma and is less salty.

3. Our picks of online barbs

Here are the most savoury tweets from both sides.