Marmitegate Stokes Sales of Unilever Brand After Tesco Dispute

  • Marmite sales in U.K. rise by 61 percent in week ended Oct. 15
  • ‘Such huge sales increases are unusual,’ IRI’s Wood says

Marmite’s advertising slogan declares that you either “love it, or hate it.” For Britons, it appears to be the former as sales surged following the brief withdrawal of the yeast-extract spread by supermarket leader Tesco Plc.

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Marmite sales in the U.K. rose by 61 percent, or 335,000 pounds ($410,000), in the week ended Oct. 15 compared with the same period a year earlier, according to data gatherer IRI. Publicity generated by a pricing dispute between Tesco and Marmite maker Unilever made the brand “top of mind for regular buyers,” IRI’s head of strategic insight Martin Wood said by e-mail.

The tussle, dubbed Marmitegate by the U.K. press, kicked off when Unilever sought to raise prices for its products by about 10 percent because of the fall in value of sterling against the euro and dollar. Tesco responded by removing Unilever products including Dove soap and Hellmann’s mayonnaise from its website earlier this month. The dispute was resolved after a day of blanket media coverage across the country.

“Such huge sales increases are unusual,” IRI’s Wood said. “It’s higher than we’d usually see after major TV advertising campaigns but less than we’d expect if people are panic buying.”

Around 11.6 million jars of Marmite are sold in the U.K. annually, generating yearly sales of about 28 million pounds for the century-old brand, according to IRI.

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