Original images by Katy Rose
For generations, South Africans have been debating which is the superior spread – Marmite or Bovril? The argument starts at dinner tables, and is continued around braais and on social media as both sides battle out the virtues of one over the other. Some families keep both in the kitchen cupboard next to the peanut butter, while others would never even consider buying the one black jar instead of the other. We also spoke with South Africa’s leading spread expert, Shameema Maloon, Brand Assistant of Spreads at Pioneer Foods, the home of both Marmite and Bovril, to answer some of our burning questions.
Both Marmite and Bovril were priced at R27.23 for 125g at a local Pick n Pay and R24.99 for 125g at Woolworths online.
The main ingredient difference between the two spreads is that Marmite is strictly vegetarian, whereas Bovril is based on beef stock. The other startling difference is the number of ingredients – Marmite lists only 5 ingredients, while Bovril list a whopping 19 ingredients. Both contain Gluten.
Marmite: Yeast extract, water, salt, flavouring, spices.
Bovril: Hydrolysed vegetable protein (soy), beef stock, water, corn starch, salt, yeast extract, carmel, sugar, onion,
thickener, spices, acidity regulators, anti-foaming agent, flavouring, flavour enhancer, eggs, vitamins, iron.
Both spreads have a very similar consistency, which is somewhere between honey and mayonnaise in texture.
Bovril can be described as an opaque, glossy spread with a very dark black colour.
Marmite is slightly more translucent, with a dark reddish brown colour which is obvious when spread thinly on bread.
Marmite has more protein than Bovril, which was surprising. (37,6g/100g compared to 27,1g/100g). Bovril is definitely the leader in sodium, with almost 30% more salt content (5380mg/100g (B) compared to 3909g/100g (M)). Despite the added vitamins, Marmite wins in this comparison, with considerably more Vitamin B12, Folic Acid and Niacin.
Both are used spread very thinly on bread or toast, with a generous addition of butter if you want to tone down the strong flavours. Commonly eaten in combination with sliced yellow cheese, again the richness of the cheese helps to offset the strong savoury tastes.
Bovril can be used as a stock substitute, and can add a great punch to stews, gravies and marinades. Marmite can be used in a similar way for vegetarian dishes.
Marmite has a very strong yeasty smell, similar to beer but much stronger. It has notes of black coffee, toast and mushrooms. The taste is very concentrated, salty with a strong bitterness.
Bovril has a strong smell of dark chocolate, fresh ground coffee with after notes of tobacco. The taste is salty, and a little sweet. It is also very strong, with a meaty, beefiness.
Winner: I know which one I would choose! Which is your favourite?
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