The Great Marmite Scare Of 2016 Was A (Kind Of Funny) Harbinger Of Brexit’s Consumer Impact

10.14.16 2 weeks ago • 5 Comments


Here’s the thing about this life: It’s imbued with mystery. Every day, things happen — both large and small — that we can’t ever hope to understand. To be alive is to dance with the unknown. Take Marmite, for example (transition of the decade, unlocked). How could anyone like the stuff? And who would have thought that this simple yeast extract would be the thing to make the looming impact of Brexit finally seem real?

Marmite, for those who don’t know, is a breakfast spread popular in the U.K.. It’s usually smeared on toast — though, based on its consistency, you might expect to see it used to patch drywall holes. It’s much like Vegemite in Australia, which is better known to U.S. audiences because of the greatest song ever, “Man Down Under.”

Yesterday, supermarket chain Tesco pulled Marmite from it’s online store. People noticed. The reaction was pandemonium, and #Marmitegate was born (if your problems don’t spawn a hashtag, did they even happen?).

The whole thing came about because the British pound is falling. Unilever, makers of Marmite, approached Tesco with a price increase, to compensate for currency changes, and Tesco tried to push back. Unilever is co-headquartered in London, but it publishes stock earnings and financial reports in Euros (its other HQ is in Holland), which cast the impact of the weakening pound in stark relief on its financial reports. In order to compensate, even Unilever products made in the U.K. — like Marmite — would have to increase in price.

For a few hours, it was like the East Coast vs. West Coast Rap Wars of the consumer goods industry, when Unilever stopped delivering products and Marmite was pulled from Tesco’s online store.

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