1 EAGLETON NOTES: A Cynical View of a Jar



Friday, 25 June 2010

A Cynical View of a Jar

DSC00525Before I start this post I should explain that I am referring to British Marmite (also sold in Australia and New Zealand as My Mate).

I love Marmite.  I love the Marmite jar.  I love peanut butter.  I detest the Sun Pat peanut butter jar.  Why the difference? 

Well firstly I should ask what the similarity is.  The similarity is that they are both almost impossible to empty completely with a knife because of their shape.

What is the difference?

The Marmite jar is iconic.  It has been the shape it has since the 1920s and derives from the shape of the original pot which was an small earthenware pot, similar in shape to the kind of French casserole dish called a 'Marmite' (pronounced MAR-MEET). I had always assumed that this was where Marmite obtained its name but the Marmite website simply says that this may be where Marmite gets its name from.

Back to the point.  The Marmite jar was conceived long before the idea was ever likely to have entered the mind of a marketing guru that there could be difficulties getting the last of the contents out of the jar.  Indeed recently the Company introduced an ‘upside down’ squeezy jar with the specific objective of getting the contents out of the jar more easily.

On the other hand the Sun Pat jar is relatively recent.  If my memory serves me correctly Sun Pat peanut butter originally came in a slightly tapered jar which was wider at the top than the bottom.  More recently the jar you see above was introduced.  A jar which it is almost impossible to empty with a knife.  Think about it.  If you create a jar which when thrown away (or cleaned for recycling) still has, say, 2% of its contents inside then that creates a percentage increase in sales equal to the amount left in the jar.  Or to be exact the difference between the amount left in the new jar and the amount left in a jar which can be emptied to a greater degree.

OK so this was a pretty arcane posting.  But it doesn’t alter the fact that I just don’t like the new Sun Pat peanut butter jar.  So why do I buy it?  Because the Coop where I shop doesn’t sell its own brand.  Perhaps I’ll start going to Tesco for their home brand.


  1. I tried either tesco or sainsburys (we shop at both so I can't remember which) own brand a couple of times, but it wasn't half as good as sun pat peanut butter. I'm normally not bothered what brand things are, but I could really taste the difference between these. I for one will be sticking with sun pat, despite the difficult jar.

  2. Thanks for that, Helen. I'm not sure I could really be bothered going to tesco anyway. Just thought I'd have a gripe. Mind you if the Coop start stocking their own brand again I'll go back to that.

  3. I have an easier solution -- I can't stand either marmite or peanut butter so never have to try emptying the jar!

    Then again I have another problem that bugs me -- jars of cooking ingredients that have necks which are just too narrow for a tablespoon!

  4. I don't even know what Marmite IS. I have come across it in reading, but I've never seen it or smelled it or tasted it. Never hear of it used in Sweden. Peanut butter is not as commonly used here as it seems to be in the British/ American world either, but available. My guess it's been something like 20 years or more since I last bought any, though!

    But I do of course come across stupid jars and bottles for other stuff. Like marmalade and salad sauce and ketchup and mustard and whatnot. Same problem: They seem to be designed on purpose so that you won't be able to actually get 100% of the content out of them.

  5. Mark. For a foodie (or is it 'foody'?) I find the fact that you don't like Marmite incomprehensible.

    I solve the problem of narrow jars and tablespoos by having a narrow 'tablespoon' measure in my armoury.

    Monica: A nation unfamiliar with Marmite? Gosh. You may find some winging its way to Sweden shortly.

  6. I guess as the adverts say, you either love or hate Marmite. I'm most definately in the "hate" camp. Having said that It is a long long time since I last tried it so maybe I should give it another go at some point.

    I must see if I can find a narrower tablespoon. I do have a proper measuring tablespoon that is actually fairly narrow and deep but even that doesn't fit in some jars (like the hoi-sin sauce I was trying to measure out last night).

    As for foody vs foodie, Google gives 42,000 and 10,300,0004 hits respectively, so I'm guessing it should be foodie. And yes this is a perfectly valid way of determining which word is correct -- I've even read a paper or two on the subject! You can use the same idea to work out the similaroty between words (Google Semantic Distance). It's amazing the uses Google can be put to apart from finding web pages!

  7. Is there an opposite word for 'foodie'?? I think I might need one... Have to confess I was always rather a coward when it comes to trying out 'strange' food! ;) It's very possible that there may be shops that do sell Marmite in Sweden. What I can say for sure is that I've never seen it advertised, or displayed anywhere, and it is certainly not something found in everyone's fridge.

  8. Regarding the last bit of impossible-to-get-out Marmite; when making a stock, or certain kinds of soup, I always pour a bit of boiling water into the jar, dissolve the remaining Marmite and add it to the stock!

  9. Brian beat me to the answer to the Marmite problem. I too dislike the Peanut butter jar and have an additional gripe - the lid slips much more easily than the old one did and can easily be left half off causing accidents.


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