Food Science

The Real Reason You Love or Hate Marmite

September 11, 2017

There are few spreads as divisive as Marmite, that tamarind-hued paste native to Britain. Slather it on an crisp piece of toast and you’re either asking for declarations of ecstasy or revulsion. Some find Marmite too astringent to stomach; others believe it to be a delightfully savory jam substitute. (I should disclose that I fall in the former camp.)

Last week, Unilever, the manufacturer of Marmite in the U.K., and genetic testing service DNAFit partnered together for the “Marmite Gene Project,” attached to a larger, robust marketing campaign for Marmite. “Just Try It,” its slogan goads. The multipartite campaign involves a genetic test where consumers can learn whether they’re born with a genetic predisposition towards Marmite. Simply swab your cheek, mail your saliva, and wait five days before you know your faction, a way of reducing your appetite or distaste for Marmite to a cruel calculus.

It's bolstered by rigorous scientific inquiry: Researchers established these genetic links through surveying 261 healthy adults (men and women alike) across the U.K., subjecting them to taste-tests followed by a survey indicating their reactions to eating Marmite. They mapped these reactions against each participant's genetic makeup, allowing scientists to determine that likes or dislikes of Marmite are informed by the presence of 15 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).

Lovers and haters can coexist in the same family, as the ad above dramatizes. Accompanying this genetic test is a facial recognition test, TasteFace, that assesses your look of disgust as you taste a spoonful of Marmite. It's got a delightful retro aesthetic lifted from a Super Nintendo game; simply give the site access to your computer camera and have your poker face at the ready.

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Our appetites are not, of course, inflexible; they change and shift as we get older, and those of us who aren’t predisposed to loving Marmite may come around eventually. “Like anything in genetics, taste preference is dictated by both nature and nurture,” Thomas Roos, one of the minds behind the project at DNAFit, explained. The kit, which only ships within the U.K. has an astronomical asking price of £89.99. That's the equivalent of $118.62. Pretty pricey! Frankly, I’d rather buy Marmite.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“One NEVER “slathers” Marmite. One “scrapes”. It’s not Nutella! Just a fine patchy coating is ample sufficiency. Anyone from the UK (or our Vegemite eating Aussie cousins) would have been able to tell you that.”
— BritAussieNewYorkerFerguson11217

Love or hate Marmite? Let us know in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Cj
  • BritAussieNewYorkerFerguson11217
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  • fitzie
  • FJT
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.


Cj February 12, 2023
Tried marmite at the age of 19 thought it was the most vile thing ever, as I got older my teen son wanted some as he liked it so brought a jar perhaps in the cupboard for a year hardly touched didn't buy again, I'm now at the age of 51 doing my weekly shop, & god knows why I see marmite I buy can't wait to get home dollop on some toast and a cuppa tea did exactly that I love the stuff ..... what's changed I'm going through the change lol but didn't think marmite would enter into my life.
One NEVER “slathers” Marmite. One “scrapes”. It’s not Nutella! Just a fine patchy coating is ample sufficiency. Anyone from the UK (or our Vegemite eating Aussie cousins) would have been able to tell you that.
tripletree September 12, 2017
I dislike the British Marmite, but LOVE the New Zealand/Australian Marmite -- I eat it every day, slathered rather slickly on toast.
fitzie September 12, 2017
Love it on crispy buttered toast.
FJT September 12, 2017
I love it; my husband hates it!!!!
Dot L. September 11, 2017
I like it in teeny amounts on toasty buttered things. Too much tastes like bullion cubes eaten straight. I had it in England on a sharp cheddar sandwich and that was good too. No one else in my house will touch it. I imagine my little jar will last forever.