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Celeste Hodges via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
Celeste Hodges via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Brexit Fallout Leads to Shortage of Marmite in the UK

Celeste Hodges via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
Celeste Hodges via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

This past June, the UK’s decision to depart from the European Union split the country into two vocal camps. Now USA Today reports that the aftermath is impacting sales of Marmite, a product that started dividing Brits decades before Brexit.

Marmite, a dark spread made with yeast left over from the beer brewing process, has been a British pantry staple since the early 20th century. On Thursday, October 13, the supermarket chain Tesco made the decision to stop selling jars of the stuff online in response to a pricing conflict with Unilever, Marmite’s producer.

Since the controversial Brexit vote was made nearly four months ago, the value of the pound against the dollar and euro has taken a nosedive. This past week, the British currency hit its lowest point in 31 years. In light of the pound’s poor performance, Unilever wanted to raise wholesale prices on the product by as much as 10 percent. The dispute with Tesco has forced Marmite devotees across the country to flock to their nearest supermarkets and clear the product off shelves.

Like its Australian cousin Vegemite, Marmite is a foodstuff that’s impossible to feel neutral about. The passion surrounding the yeast spread is so strong that #marmitegate might even be capable of connecting people on both sides of the political aisle.

[h/t USA Today]

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geography
This State Was Just Ranked the Best in the U.S.
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Every year, U.S. News and World Report assembles its list of the Best States across a variety of metrics. Categories like health care, education, economy, and quality of life are measured statistically—education, for example, looks at the graduation rate in high schools, while the unemployment rate correlates with job opportunities—and assessed against areas where states may be lacking, like disparities in income between genders or unfavorable crime statistics.

After considerable crunching of numbers, the U.S. News data analysis has crowned a new "best" state: Iowa.

The Hawkeye state finished in the top 10 or top five in key areas like health care, job opportunities, and overall infrastructure. Farming, a longtime identifying trait, has taken second place to manufacturing plants. And while plenty of Iowa is rural, its technological innovations are advanced: the state actually leads the nation in building high-speed internet access into the fabric of its communities.

There are other factors that paved the way for Iowa's placement—affordable housing, for example, where it ranks second overall in the country, and health care affordability. U.S. News points to a sluggish population growth for younger residents and less-hospitable resources for entrepreneurs as drawbacks.

In the full list, Minnesota grabbed the second-place spot; New York, the 25th. Louisiana appears at the bottom. 

[h/t U.S. News]

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Big Questions
Why Do Honeycrisp Apples Cost So Much?
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Apples to apples is no longer a valid comparison. As gastronomic writer Sarah Jampel at Food52 has observed, shoppers who prefer a premium fruit experience by opting for Honeycrisp apples can pay up to four times as much as they would for other varieties. When did Granny Smiths become the RC Cola to Honeycrisp’s Coke?

According to Jampel, the answer invokes the old law of supply and demand. There’s plenty of demand for the apple, but prices get engorged when there isn't enough to go around.

The scarcity is a result of the Honeycrisp’s eccentric nature. Introduced commercially in 1991 after being invented by University of Minnesota scientist David Bedford, who cross-pollinated seeds to create a more durable and winter-resistant apple, the Honeycrisp tree demands very specific soil and maintenance requirements. The fruit can ripen at various times, necessitating more frequent harvests; the skin is thin and delicate, so they must be trimmed off by hand. Many of the trees are so delicate they require a trellis [PDF] to support their branches.

All the extra labor means more time and money—the latter of which is passed along to the consumer.

Growers who didn’t anticipate the surging popularity of Honeycrisps were also caught off-guard. As trees can take up to six years to bear enough fruit for commercial purposes, the number of trees currently producing isn’t really proportionate to the level of demand.

That will change as more are planted, although it might be a little while before the Honeycrisp proves to be on the same economic footing as its Red Delicious counterpart. Before you celebrate a cheaper version, remember that growers looking to feed the market might opt to grow the apple in less-than-perfect conditions that could affect its famously crunchy taste. Enjoy it while you can.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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