Tesco removes Marmite from online store over Brexit price dispute with Unilever

The logo of the Unilever group is seen at the Miko factory in Saint-Dizier, France.
The logo of the Unilever group is seen at the Miko factory in Saint-Dizier, France. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - British staple Marmite was taken off the virtual shelves at supermarket Tesco on Thursday (Oct 13), following a reported row with supplier Unilever over pricing after the pound plummeted on fears over Britain's Brexit plans.

Jars of Marmite were "currently not available" in the online store of Tesco - the world's third biggest supermarket chain - after the company reportedly refused Unilever's request to hike prices.

Unilever demanded the prices of its products be increased in order to offset the cost of imported commodities following the recent fall of the pound, the Financial Times reported citing executives at numerous supermarket groups.

The dispute broke out following a turbulent few days for the pound, which last week plummeted against the dollar to its lowest level for 31 years.

The sharp fall was attributed to fears that Britain's decision to leave the European Union could see the country leave the single market in a trade-off to gain control over immigration.

Other Unilever products including PG Tips tea and Ben & Jerry's ice cream were also unavailable on Tesco's online store, but it was the sudden absence of Marmite which prompted national furore.

"Marmite wars" appeared on the Metro newspaper front page, while the story also made The Times front page and BBC television news.

Unilever refused to comment on its relationship with Tesco, while the supermarket chain said: "We are currently experiencing availability issues on a number of Unilever products. We hope to have this issue resolved soon."

Accompanied by the motto "Love it or hate it", the dark-coloured spread first hit the shelves more than a century ago from a factory still operating in Britain.

Made from spent brewer's yeast, Marmite is usually spread on toast, although the company says it can also be used as an ingredient for dishes such as bolognese and French onion soup.