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Current Marmite jar design. © Unilever Archives

Marmite, the savoury spread that everybody famously loves or loathes, was launched on an unsuspecting world in 1902.

Since then it’s become a national institution and a central part of the nation’s diet – most children in Britain are generally fed it from the time they are weaned, and most never grow out of it.

Providing high doses of Vitamin B and unrivalled pleasure (especially on toast) in nearly every household across the country, not to mention numerous Brit-inhabited homes across the globe (Marmite is exported to 30 countries worldwide), Marmite is most certainly “our mate”.

A by-product of the brewing industry, it owes its existence to a German scientist, Justus Liebig’s discovery that yeast cells left over from beer-making could be concentrated, bottled and eaten.

The first factory was set up in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire in 1902. Marmite soon acquired the status of an indispensable dietary staple, being issued in soldiers’ mess tins, as well as finding its way onto the menus of schools and hospitals. So much is it the taste of home that British peacekeeping forces serving in Kosovo in 1999 sent back an urgent request for supplies, to shore up the morale of troops on the ground.

After being biochemically broken down, the yeast is flavoured with a blend of spice and vegetable extracts, creating a uniquely pungent, dark brown paste that lends itself to a whole range of culinary applications. It may look like tar, but don’t let that put you of - if you haven’t yet looked further than the cheese and Marmite sandwich, prepare yourself for Marmite pancakes, Panini with Marmite tapénade, or – perhaps most ambrosial of all – Marmite eggy bread.

All images reproduced with kind permission of Unilever [from an original in Unilever Archives]

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