Marmite Matters: Marmageddon and coping with disaster in New Zealand
Subject: New Zealand
Among its other devastating impacts, the February 2011 earthquake in the New Zealand city of Christchurch damaged and closed the only factory producing the local variant of Marmite (a dark, salty yeast-extract spread and noble by-product of beer brewing). Stocks of this staple of the New Zealand diet dwindled and then ran out, bringing on the aftershock of ‘Marmageddon’. Alongside Vegemite, Marmite is of central culinary and cultural importance to New Zealanders; it is a part of the country’s popular cultural fabric (‘kiwiana’), a literal consumption of national identity, and a product that is ‘world famous in New Zealand’ but barely sold anywhere else. This paper discusses the importance of Marmite (as well as Vegemite) in the New Zealand diet and maps the development and conclusion of the Marmageddon crisis. Marmageddon was a big deal; it lasted over a year and was discussed in high politics and in the national media as well as on an everyday level. Marmite-loyal New Zealanders had to make some difficult choices between hoarding supplies, rationing out doses, doing without, or substituting their preferred spread with Vegemite, which is made in Australia.