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The Great Marmite Mystery

The Great Marmite Mystery

By Bill Sheat

I cannot understand why it has taken so long to get Marmite production up and running again.

Thirty years ago I was involved with a client who wanted to transport liquid yeast by tanker from the Tui Brewery at Mangatainoka to the Kraft factory in Auckland. This required a special transport licence, as road transport was an industry controlled by licence back then.

In preparation for the hearing of the application, my client and I visited the Kraft factory in Auckland to see the manufacturing of Vegemite.

The liquid yeast has a consistency similar to tapioca. The yeast cells have a shell and inside is a colourless liquid. The shells were fractured by a large roller type machine. The shells were then separated from the liquid by a centrifuge which was just a larger version of the cream separator found on many farms years ago. The shells were collected up and sold to a farmer as pig feed.

The colourless liquid was mixed with caramel (which is just burnt sugar) which came from 44 gallon drums which I assumed had come from Chelsea Sugar Refining on the North Shore. The mixing was done in large mixers which were just large scale versions of domestic food mixers. Other flavours were mixed in including powdered onion.

The machinery to do all this could have been housed in a residential garage. Temporary arrangements could have been set up in Christchurch while the main factory was being repaired.

There was an urban myth around back then about the delivery of the yeast from the brewery in Christchurch to the Marmite manufacturer there.

It was said that because of the manufacturer’s religious sensitivities, it was uncomfortable about buying product from an alcohol manufacturer.

This was avoided by the carrier purchasing the yeast from the brewer. The tanker would load up and stop at the carrier’s depot where ownership would pass to the manufacturer.


Bill Sheat is a retired Lower Hutt lawyer.

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