1. ITV Report

Marmageddon: New Zealand runs out of its favourite spread

Marmite has been flying off the shelves in New Zealand supermarkets Photo: Reuters

It is a sticky black sandwich spread that much of New Zealand adores, though some detractors liken it to axle grease.

And now the New Zealand manufacturer of Marmite, Sanitarium, has said supplies are starting to run out after their Christchurch factory was closed in November due to earthquake damage.

"Don't freak. We will be back soon!" the company says on their Marmite website.

But in a country where 4.4 million people, eat their way through 640,000kg of the savoury spread every year, the news has sparked fears and panic-buying leaving many supermarket shelves empty.

The supply shortage has become a talking point on Twitter:

Even New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key has addressed the issue.

He has been quoted on TV3 television station as saying: "I'm going to have to go thin I'm afraid. I have a very small amount in my office and once that runs out I'm obviously aware that supplies are very short."

Mr Key has also said he likes the Australian rival Vegemite, saying: "I've got to be honest, I can eat both."

Some savvy Kiwis have decided to cash in on the supply shortage, with hundreds of jars now up for sale on auction and classifieds site Trade Me.

Even half-used jars have been listed, with one seller asking $100 for a jar that is a third full.

Marmite spread on toast is a Kiwi favourite Credit: Reuters

Marmite was first launched in England and was initially imported into New Zealand.

But by 1919, New Zealand had come up with its own version, which differs in taste significantly from the English version.

As a result, importing English Marmite simply won't work, said Pierre van Heerden, Sanitarium's general manager.

He has suggested some rationing: "If you have it every day, maybe have it every second day, and don't go out there and panic buy," he told Television New Zealand.