Marmite has been dining out on its divisiveness for three decades. Since debuting its infamous ‘You either love it or hate it’ strapline in a 1996 campaign, the brand has celebrated its polarising powers.

What’s more, shoppers love to hate it – so much so that rare, special edition ‘Summer of hate’ Marmite jars, launched in 2015, became collector’s items – with some since being flogged for thousands of pounds on eBay.

So, when Walkers announced it had stopped making Marmite crisps to “enable us to focus our efforts on making more of the flavours crisp fans love the most”, there seemed to be a point missing…

While Marmite crisps aren’t for everyone, they have found a fiercely loyal consumer base over the years. This became evident as soon as Walkers revealed its decision.

“Why, why, why have you stopped making Marmite flavour crisps?” one shopper asked Walkers in a post on social media platform X.

“Are you trying to lose your customers?” another consumer asked the crisps giant. “Because you are going about it the right way!”

A third shopper simply wrote: “I’m devastated.”

Tayto launches Marmite brand crisps

Marmite’s social media team quickly saw an opportunity to play on shoppers’ outrage. Last week, on its Instagram and X accounts, the brand posted a photo of a hand holding a crisp with the caption: ‘Coming soon…’. A clear reintroduction tease. 

The Grocer has since revealed Marmite crisps will be returning via a tie-up with Northern Irish manufacturer Tayto Group. Marmite Tortillas and Cheese & Marmite Puffs will also be launched under the licensing agreement.

“Could have posted this before I bought eight multipacks of Walkers,” one shopper commented under Marmite’s Instagram post. “I’m drooling already,” another shopper wrote.

Marmite Crisps 6 Pack Outer 3D - High Res

The emotive response from consumers raises the question: Why did Walkers give Marmite crisps over to Tayto Group?

It’s first worth noting Northern Irish manufacturer Tayto is a far smaller operation than Walkers, which presumably means it is willing to be more flexible. Tayto Group’s top-selling brand Golden Wonder is worth £18.1m in grocery – a tiny fraction of Walkers’ £580.0m value [NIQ 52 w/e 9 September 2023].

Second, the new iteration of Marmite crisps won’t launch under any of Tayto’s brands. The new black packs hero Marmite’s logo alone, in contrast to Walkers’ version, which featured its own logo more prominently.

Perhaps the bigwigs at Marmite owner Unilever were tired of sharing the limelight with Walkers, which may be why they parted ways. After all, this isn’t the first time Marmite and Walkers have taken some time apart.

History of Marmite crisps

Marmite crisps first launched under the Walkers brand in 2002, but Unilever ended the licensing agreement in 2009 in order to manufacture them itself. The two brands reunited in 2015, when Walkers reintroduced Marmite crisps to coincide with its ‘Bring it back’ flavours campaign. But in recent years, Walkers has set its sights on improving the nutritional credentials of its snacking portfolio.

In 2022, Walkers set an ambition to make snacks that were non-HFSS or sold in portions of under 100 calories comprise 50% of its sales by 2025. As Marmite is famously salty, perhaps crisps flavoured with it simply don’t have a place in Walkers’ future.

While Walkers has focused its energies on non-HFSS innovation, Tayto Group has proved its reliability as a supplier over recent years. Tayto crisps were brought in by retailers to fill the shelf gaps left by Walkers in 2021, after an SAP upgrade by PepsiCo resulted in weeks of disrupted service.

Sales of Tayto’s top-selling snacking brands Golden Wonder and Mr Porky Snacks (£13.9m) may be modest, but they’re both in volume growth (up 17.9% and 10.9% respectively). By contrast, category leader Walkers saw unit sales dip by 4.6% last year.

Walkers certainly doesn’t need to look over its shoulder. It’s still a giant, but Tayto’s newly inked contract with Unilever goes some way to demonstrate the strength of setting ego aside.

Newly equipped with the brand power of Marmite, Tayto Group looks set to drive major gains in 2024, without seeking any of the glory for itself.