March 21, 2013 at 3:57 PM ET
New Zealand's sticky black sandwich spread is finally back on breakfast tables after fans suffered through a year of what they dramatically described as “Marmageddon.”
Supermarkets began selling Marmite again Wednesday for the first time since March 2012, when supplies ran out. A series of earthquakes in the city of Christchurch forced manufacturer Sanitarium to close the only factory that made New Zealand's version of the yeast-extract product.
To the uninitiated, Marmite looks like axle grease and tastes little better. But plenty love it: New Zealanders were buying 640 metric tons every year before Marmaggedon hit.
Grocery chain Foodstuffs said people have been lining up at its stores since the end of Marmaggedon. Spokeswoman Antoinette Shallue said customers are "really excited" about Marmite's return.
England makes its own version of the spread which tastes significantly different from Sanitarium’s, which is popular in New Zealand and Australia.
“You’ve rationed, you’ve scraped, you’ve survived Marmaggedon — and now the wait is over!” Sanitarium said in a jubilant announcement on its website this week.
“Thanks for not freaking out and for waiting patiently for the black gold’s return.”
During the lean Marmite times, Sanitarium General Manager Pierre van Heerden encouraged consumers to innovate in order to make their existing Marmite supplies last longer.
“With toast it's a little bit warmer so it spreads easier and it goes a little bit further,” van Heerden exhorted on Radio New Zealand. “What we're asking consumers if maybe they could have their Marmite on toast, ration it a little bit, maybe only have it once a day or every second day.”
According to a variety of news reports, New Zealanders are elated over the return of Marmite.
“I’m very happy,” shopper Robyn Lonergan told the Agence France-Presse news agency. “I've tried the alternatives but they’re just not the same.”
Have you ever tried Marmite? What do you think of it? Do you understand what all the fuss is about? Let us know in the comments!
The Associated Press and TODAY.com writer Laura T. Coffey contributed to this report.