Production of the Kiwi breakfast condiment was suspended after an earthquake damaged a cooling tower at the Marmite factory in Christchurch, making the building unsafe.

The factory’s general manager Pierre van Heerden said: “Some sizes have already sold out in some places. But we urge consumers not to buy huge boxes of it, as it’s a Kiwi favourite and people need to be considerate of their fellow Kiwis.”

He added that the brown stuff wouldn’t be back in production until half way through this year, but there would only be enough to last a few weeks.

He said they would either find a new building for the Marmite factory or begin work on the tower to get staff back in there as soon as possible.

In the meantime, Heerden suggested using toast rather than bread to make the spread go further.

He said: “With toast it’s a little bit warmer so it spreads easier and it goes a little bit further. What we’re asking consumers if maybe they could have their Marmite on toast, ration it a little bit, maybe only have it once a day or every second day.

“We will get Marmite back. Consumers don’t have to worry about that or freak out about it.”

The plant, owned by the company Sanitarium, makes around 640,000kg of Marmite every year and is the only source of the spread for Australia and New Zealand.

The recipe is different from the British version.

The shortage has been dubbed “Marmageddon” online, and Marmite was the top trending topic in New Zealand.

DJ Dominic Harvey tweeted: “Have not eaten Marmite in years. Now I’m starting to wonder how I will make it to July without a jar.”

Richard Cotman from France wrote: “The last 20 tweets I’ve seen from my NZ contacts are talking about the #Marmite shortage. Truly, nothing happens in my home country.”

Main image: New Zealand Marmite (photo: Stephandalex)