Back in the halcyon days of EU membership, a case for ‘Remain’ was presented upon these very pages. It explored the potentially disastrous consequences of Brexit on our meals. We toyed with the threat of turning our backs on claret, kissing confit de canard goodbye, and bidding farewell to champagne after 23 June. But in my shortsightedness, and in my greed, I failed to predict that Brexit would mark the funeral march of Marmite. Which it nearly did.
Despite a day of utter hysteria, unalloyed panic and bulk buying, #Marmitegate is over. Thank God. To be fair to Brexit, and all who voted for it, no one could have predicted the threat of extinction of our beloved breakfast spread. But lo, the threat came – and what a threat it was.
In case you spent Thursday under a rock, the events unfolded as follows: the pound continued to plummeted in value (this much was expected from Brexit). Consequently, grocery giant Unilever (responsible for brands such as Hellmann’s, PG Tips and, you guessed it, Marmite) reportedly said it wanted to increase product prices by ten per cent. Supermarket chain Tesco reacted badly to Unilever’s intentions, and rebelled by removing Unilever products from its website.
In the clash of the Titans, Graeme Pitkethly, Unilever’s Chief Finance Officer, defended his company’s actions, telling the feverish press that ‘we are taking price increases in the UK. That is a normal devaluation-led cycle.’ This didn’t go down well with the British public and, I rather agree, is not an acceptable justification for the end of breakfast as we know it.
Luckily, the fiasco was resolved before we had to bid a final farewell to the growing up spread you never grow out of, with Unilever thanking the general public for ‘all the love.’