The high-profile row between Tesco and Unilever earlier this month gave a massive boost to Marmite, pushing up sales by 61% for the week when compared with the same period last year.
Shoppers grabbed an extra £335,000 worth of jars off shelves as the yeast spread was the media’s focus in its reports of the pricing dispute between the UK’s biggest supermarket and the country’s largest grocery supplier, new figures from IRI show.
The 61% rise for the week ending 15 October - about 129,000 jars across all formats - was also a week-on-week figure, with sales of the 114-year-old brand usually flat at just over £500,000 every week during a year in which it typically made £28m. Marmite sales are not affected by weather or consumer capriciousness (unlike other Unilever brands such as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream).
Early October’s sizeable sales increase - which was enjoyed by all supermarkets - was unusual, according to Martin Wood, IRI’s head of strategic insight for retail, who said the uplift was “clearly” the result of the abundance of Marmitegate reports, which put the spread front of consumers’ minds.
A spike was apparent on the days following the resolution of the clash between Tesco and Unilever, he added. “Marmite was splattered everywhere. Sales were higher than we’d usually see after a major TV advertising campaign but less than we’d expect if people were panic buying.”
Wood did not want to speculate about where the product’s high could be followed by a low. “We’ll have to look at the data when we get it - but I don’t think we’ll see sales 40% lower.”