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