New Zealanders celebrated the return of Marmite to supermarket shelves this week for the first time in over a year. ‘Marmaggedon’ has been a stark warning on how acts of God can disrupt supply chains, forcing a nation to make new choices over what to spread on their toast in the morning.
The crisis began when the Christchurch earthquake in February 2011 damaged the only factory in the country that produces Marmite, forcing it to close. Stocks gradually diminished, creating a red alert from early 2012. Kiwis tried replacing their favourite spread with Marmite imports from the UK and Australia’s product Vegemite, but New Zealand has enjoyed its own special recipe since 1919 and neither product quite filled the gap.
The shortage led to complaints, even from Prime Minister John Key, who took to the airwaves when his supplies became low. "I have a very small amount in my office and once that runs out I'm obviously aware that supplies are very short,” he said.
The Marmite factory was scheduled to re-open by
the middle of last year but faced unexpected delays. It is now up and running, with food company Sanitarium, who makes Marmite, thanking consumers for "not freaking out".
But two years later, even with its return, some supermarkets in New Zealand are still rationing supplies to two jars per customer in the face of high demand.