Marmite: England’s Favorite Savory Spread

Marmite is a British institution but it was invented by a German named Justus Liebig. Liebig was a chemist who discovered that the process of brewing beer left yeast that could be made into a healthy paste with a high nutritional value. He made this discovery in the late 1800s.

Marmite comes from the town of Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire, England. The company that made it was founded there in 1902. The town is also home to the world-famous Bass brewery. Bass still provides some of the yeast extract used in modern Marmite production.

Marmite was not immediately popular but after biochemists theorized that vitamin deficiencies were responsible for certain health issues, schools and hospitals started feeding it to students and patients.

During both World Wars, Marmite was provided to British soldiers. It was especially valuable in parts of the world where vitamin deficiencies were common. It was known to effectively combat the thiamin deficiency known as beriberi.


Marketed for its nutritional value, Marmite became an English staple and was considered a national favorite by the 1950s.

The Marmite name most likely came from France where the word marmite refers to a kind of crockery cooking vessel. The shape of the Marmite jar is similar to that of a French marmite pot.

Today, the Marmite company is still located in Burton-on-Trent and produces approximately 50 million jars of the spread each year. Almost all of it is used in the UK though it is also one of the main products that British travelers take with them when leaving the country.

Marmite flavor profile

Marmite’s flavor is sometimes described as salty and cheesy. It is intensely savory and rich in glutamic acids, which are the same compounds that give monosodium glutamate its umami character. Not all Marmite is the same. The Marmite from New Zealand contains caramel and sugar, which gives it a noticeably different flavor from the UK version.

Health benefits of marmite

In modern terms, Marmite could be considered a superfood because of the high concentration and range of nutrients that it provides. Here are some of the beneficial compounds that you can get from Marmite:

  • B vitamins: Marmite is fortified with B vitamins. You can get thiamin, riboflavin and cobalamin from Marmite. It contains high concentrations of niacin and folate as well.
  • Minerals: Iron, magnesium, and potassium are present in high concentrations in Marmite.
  • Protein: Marmite contains a small portion of your daily required amount of protein, but still a significant amount given the small serving size.

By having Marmite in your diet, you can treat and prevent health problems like:

  • Insomnia: The magnesium in Marmite can help you to sleep.
  • Skin health: One of the benefits of B vitamins is their ability to keep your skin healthy.
  • Dementia: Researchers have found that Marmite increases levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that regulates activity in the brain. Brain disorders like dementia are associated with low levels of GBA.

Health concerns

Marmite is high in sodium, which means that it can cause health problems for people who are required to limit their salt intake.

Common uses

The classic way to enjoy Marmite is on toast. The flavor is strong enough that a very small amount will go a long way. Alternatively, you can use it on bread instead of mayo when making a sandwich. More unusual ways to use Marmite include dissolving it in hot water to create a broth-like liquid.