Yeast resistance: Marmite

Marmite is a thick, black yeast extract product. Around 25 million jars are sold every year.

The Marmite business is established
German scientist Justus von Liebig (1803 – 1873) discovered that spent brewers’ yeast was edible in the late nineteenth century. By adding vegetable extracts, it could be rendered as nutritious as meat extract.

The Marmite Food Extract Company was incorporated in 1902 to exploit the potential of the product. Company headquarters were based in London with a factory at Burton upon Trent. The company was headed by a retired Swiss sugar merchant called Frederick Wissler.

Marmite, as a vegetable and yeast extract, competed against the Bovril and Liebig meat extracts that were popular at the time. Marmite had the advantage of retailing for around half the price of its rivals.


The business grew rapidly, and a second factory was established at a former brewery in Camberwell Green, London, from 1907.

Marmite enjoyed a growing reputation as a health product, and it was added to soldiers’ rations during the First World War as a Vitamin B1 deficiency preventative.

Following the death of the company’s first chairman, Marmite was acquired by Bovril in 1924.

The Camberwell factory was closed in 1927 and production relocated to a new site at Vauxhall.

Post-war developments
The Burton factory was relocated to Wellington Street from 1952.

The Vauxhall factory was closed in 1967.

A new £1 million factory was established at Burton upon Trent to produce both Bovril and Marmite from 1968. The factory employed 450 people.

Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods company, acquired Marmite in 2000.

Marmite was launched in squeezy bottles in 2006.

The Burton factory produced 25 million jars of Marmite in 2015. Around 15 percent of the total is exported, mostly to former British colonies. Sri Lanka is a major market, where it is mixed into porridge.

A mixture of ale and lager yeasts are used to create Marmite. Much of the yeast is still sourced from the MolsonCoors (formerly Bass) and Marston’s breweries in Burton. The automated factory employs around 60 people. Marmite is matured for seven days before distribution.

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