It’s fair to say I was raised on Marmite. For the duration of my school life, from age 5 to 18 I took a home made lunch to school every day. It almost always contained sandwiches, and invariably one of those was Marmite and cheese, a combo I still love to this day. Even now, Marmite on toast is as often my breakfast of choice as anything else.
I know plenty of people that love Vegemite just as strongly as I love Marmite. Many find Marmite overly sweet, and if I had discovered them both as an adult, who’s to say I wouldn’t prefer Vegemite’s darker, yeastier flavour now?
When news broke that Sanitarium (Marmite’s producer) had experienced production-stopping earthquake damage to their factory I was quick to lay in stocks to ensure my daily supply would remain uninterrupted. I’m still working through the last 1.2kg jar I purchased, but in all conscience, I cannot buy another jar of Marmite from Sanitarium, or support any of their products any longer.
Sanitarium in New Zealand is wholly owned by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, as is their sister company in Australia. This means they pay no corporate tax in either Australia or New Zealand, as their status as a religious organisation gives them an exemption. Their estimated turnover (because they are not required to divulge such information) is $300 million per annum.
New Zealand has a fairly substantial problem with corporate tax avoidance. While we might get hot under the collar about benefit fraud ($23 million last year), estimates of lost tax range from $1-$6 billion per annum. When the cost of alleviating child poverty in New Zealand is estimated at $1.5-$2 billion per annum you can see what we are missing out on as a society. As Catriona MacLennan puts it; if the rich stopped cheating, we could eliminate child poverty.
I find corporate tax avoidance pretty distasteful, but a legislated tax exemption for particular businesses (and in this case, a very successful, dominant one at that) is a completely avoidable own goal against the nation’s balance sheet.
Until Sanitarium start paying their way, none of their products will grace the shelves of our pantry.
Oh, and as a post script to the story, it seems Sanitarium are also discriminating against independent food retailers. Seen at our local Moore Wilson’s: