Colin Espiner is having a little rant about Marmite.
Except…some of us reckon it tastes a bit funny. Has Sanitarium been mucking about with the recipe? As Griffins learned with Girl Guide Biscuits and Monteith’s with brewing beer in Auckland rather than Greymouth, you mess about with Kiwi favourites at your peril.
I’m probably the wrong person to ask about the Marmite recipe. At the risk of having my passport revoked, I think Marmite has the colour of axle grease, the consistency of Butenol, and the taste of powdered soup mixed with salt.
And yet there’s the rub, I reckon. Are the aforementioned products really Kiwi favourites? Or is it just that we’re told they are? As my colleague Michael Donaldson of the Sunday Star-Times noted in his beer column about another yeast product this week, a good backstory and Kiwi “heritage” is becoming more important to some manufacturers than the product itself.
It’s not just brewers that are doing it, of course. In this age of globalisation, the race is on for smaller, “authentic” locally made experiences that tap into the consumers’ sense of nostalgia for the ways things used to be.
And there’s nothing more Kiwi than Marmite, right? (Well, except that it was first made in Burton upon Trent). Politicians know the value of this too. John Key was quick to bemoan his dwindling Marmite supplies last year, though he somewhat undermined his message by admitting he could eat Australian-made Vegemite in the meantime.
Across the ditch, former (and possibly future) Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd constantly describes himself as “a happy little Vegemite”, referencing the 1954 advertising jingle of “Australia’s favourite breakfast spread”. It’s only a matter of time, presumably, before Key starts calling himself “a relaxed little Marmite”.
Sanitarium’s marketing prowess could yet desert the company, however. One of the risks involved in taking the product off the shelves for a year could be that Kiwis lose the taste for Marmite – possibly lowering their sodium levels at the same time. That could account for the fact some people think it now tastes different.
Now all of that is supposition and guess work and just outright being mischievous by Colin Espiner, who I would have thought was well above this sort of thing. The article he links to never even has a comment from Sanitarium, using instead the tired old journalist back up phrase “…failed to return calls”.
Which is really strange…because Pierre van Heerden is perhaps New Zelaand’s most accessible CEO.
I thought I’d do what Colin Espiner obviously couldn’t be bothered doing, or Caroline King for that matter. I dropped Mr van Heerden a note.
Less than 10 minutes later he replied…how hard was that. He said:
Our prices are exactly what they were prior to earthquake. The recipe taste everything is the same. No salt has been reduced. Only difference is slight variation in Nutririon panel which was happening prior earthquake.
And there you go, straight from the horse’s mouth.
For the record I reckon it tastes just the glorious same as it ever was…I got my jars of Marmite over a week ago and between me and the daughter we have scoffed a lot. I also gave away one jar to a lucky reader, and a couple of others to loyal friends.
Maybe Colin and that other whinger have pommy blood considering all the whinging they are doing.