There is a crisis in New Zealand and it's not an earthquake, oil spill, or mining accident. No, this 'Marmageddon' involves a gooey black substance known as Marmite.
For the unfamiliar, Marmite is synonymous with breakfast in New Zealand. The dark, yeasty, salty paste is slathered on toast and crackers, mixed into spaghetti, and added to hot water for a soothing drink.
To call it an acquired taste is putting it lightly, but the divisive spread is widely adored across the island nation and news of its apparent shortage has sparked outrage.
In an announcement Monday titled Marmite Shortage, the company warned supplies are starting to run out nationwide and across the ditch in Australia.
Makers of New Zealand's original yeast spread cautioned that jars could be off the shelf for some time but reassured that it was doing everything possible to minimize how long.
The Christchurch factory closed in November due to earthquake damage. It's the only factory that makes Sanitarium brand Marmite and the company is working to get it up and running by July. The plant reportedly produces roughly 640,000kg of Marmite annually for the nation's 4.4 million residents.
Don't' freak, the yeast extract producer said Monday. We will be back soon.
Yet, New Zealanders did not take the warning lightly. Marmite jars flew off the shelves in grocery stores across the North and South Islands. As supplies ran out, online auctioneers put the beloved Black Gold on websites like TradeMe at inflated prices. One Marmite miser asked for $799 for a package while others sold half-empty containers as emergency stashes.
Even Prime Minister John Key said he's rationing his personal supply.
I'm going to have to go thin I'm afraid, Key told New Zealand's TV3 television station. I have a very small amount in my office and once that runs out I'm obviously aware that supplies are very short.
The New Zealand Marmite-maker Sanitarium uses a different recipe than the English version of the product, which is manufactured by a different company. Brought to the commonwealth in the 1990s, the taste of the two sticky spreads diverged considerably as New Zealand came up with its own, distinct version that is similar in taste to Australia's Vegemite.
Sanitarium had some ideas to help concerned Kiwis stretch their existing supplies.
With toast it's a little bit warmer, so it spreads easier and it goes a little bit further, General Manager Pierre van Heerden told a public radio station on Monday, noting that this is a short-term hiccup because of the earthquakes.
He said the company is confident that diehard Marmite fans will be waiting for the jars to be back on shelves with knives at the ready.