Vegemite is a dark brown Australian food paste made from leftover brewers’ yeast extract with various vegetable and spice additives developed by Cyril P. Callister in Melbourne, Victoria, in 1922.
A spread for sandwiches, toast, crumpets and cracker biscuits as well as a filling for pastries, Vegemite is similar to British, New Zealand and South African Marmite, Australian Promite, MightyMite, OzEmite and D Swiss Cenovis. With the brand now owned by American company Mondelēz International, other Australian-owned spreads have entered the market to provide an alternative, such as the yeast-based AussieMite.
Vegemite is salty, slightly bitter, malty, and rich in umami – similar to beef bouillon. This product can be obtained in the US – CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS
In 1919, following the disruption of British Marmite imports after World War I and prior to the introduction of Vegemite, Callister’s employer, the Australian company Fred Walker & Co., gave him the task of developing a spread from the used yeast being dumped by breweries. Callister had been hired by the chairman Fred Walker. Vegemite was registered as a trademark in Australia that same year. Callister used autolysis to break down the yeast cells from waste obtained from the Carlton & United brewery. Concentrating the clear liquid extract and blending with salt, celery and onion extracts formed a sticky black paste.
Following a nationwide competition with a prize of £50 (2010:$3,527) to find a name for the new spread, the name “Vegemite” was selected out of a hat by Fred Walker’s daughter, Sheilah. The winners, local sisters Hilda and Laurel Armstrong (aged 18 and 20 at the time) of Albert Park, Victoria, were known as “The Vegemite Girls” for the rest of their long lives. Vegemite first appeared on the market in 1923 with advertising emphasising the value of Vegemite to children’s health but failed to sell very well. Faced with growing competition from Marmite, from 1928 to 1935 the product was renamed as “Parwill” to make use of the advertising slogan “Marmite but Parwill”, a convoluted pun on the new name and that of its competitor; “If Ma [mother] might… then Pa [father] will.” This attempt to expand market share was unsuccessful and the name was changed back to Vegemite; but did not recover lost market share.
In 1925, Walker had established the Kraft Walker Cheese Co. as a joint venture company with J.L. Kraft & Bros to market processed cheese and, following the failure of Parwill, in 1935 he used the success of Kraft Walker Cheese to promote Vegemite. In a two-year campaign to promote sales, Vegemite was given away free with Kraft Walker cheese products (with a coupon redemption) and this was followed by poetry competitions with imported American Pontiac cars being offered as prizes. Sales responded and in 1939 Vegemite was officially endorsed by the British Medical Association as a rich source of B vitamins. Rationed in Australia during World War II, Vegemite was included in Australian Army rations and by the late 1940s was used in nine out of ten Australian homes.
In April 1984, a 115-gram jar of vegemite became the first product in Australia to be electronically scanned at a checkout.
Vegemite is produced in Australia at Mondelez’s Port Melbourne manufacturing facility which produces more than 22 million jars per year. Virtually unchanged from Callister’s original recipe, Vegemite now far outsells Marmite and other similar spreads in Australia. The billionth jar of Vegemite was produced in October 2008.
Vegemite was also produced in New Zealand for over fifty years, but as of August 2006 New Zealand production had ceased.
A common method of eating Vegemite is on toasted bread with one layer of butter or margarine before spreading a thin layer of Vegemite. A Vegemite sandwich may consist of two slices of buttered bread, Vegemite and cheese, but other ingredients such as lettuce, avocado and tomato can be added as well.
Vegemite can be used as a filling for pastries, such as the Cheesymite Scroll.
The official Vegemite website contains several recipes using Vegemite in foods such as pasta, burgers, pizzas and casseroles.
Kosher and halal
Limited quantities of kosher Vegemite were first produced in the 1980s;a 2004 decision to cease certification was reversed after a backlash from Jewish consumers. Around 2009, Kraft contracted with the Kashrut Authority in New South Wales for their kashrut supervision services, and by 2010, all jars and tubes of ordinary Vegemite were labelled with the authority’s stamp. In 2010, Vegemite also received halal certification.
Advertising and branding
Originally promoted as a healthy food for children, during World War II advertising emphasised its medicinal value:
At the same time “Sister MacDonald” insisted that Vegemite was essential for “infant welfare” in magazines. Later advertisements began to promote the importance of the B complex vitamins to health.
Vegemite’s rise to popularity was helped by the marketing campaigns written by J. Walter Thompson advertising that began in 1954, using groups of smiling, healthy children singing a catchy jingle entitled “We’re happy little Vegemites”.
As bright as bright can be.
We all enjoy our Vegemite
For breakfast, lunch, and tea.
Our mummies say we’re growing stronger
Every single week,
Because we love our Vegemite
We all adore our Vegemite
It puts a rose in every cheek.
See Video of original Advertisment
First aired on radio in 1954 the jingle was transferred to television in 1956. This advertising campaign continued until the late 1960s but, as they were targeted to children, discontinued in favour of ads promoting the product to all ages. In the late 1980s the original black and white television commercial was remastered, partially colourised and reintroduced. This commercial was to be broadcast periodically from 1991 to 2010. The two young twin girls who sang this advertising jingle were known as the “Vegemite Twins”.
In March 2007, Kraft announced that they were trying to trace the eight orisginal children from the campaign to celebrate the advertisement’s fiftieth anniversary and to take part in a new campaign. The 1956 commercial was to be remade with the original children, now grown, to forge a link between “the new generation and the old ad”. The media took up the search on Kraft’s behalf with all eight children identified in eight days and resulted in many TV specials and interviews in the Australian National media. The 50-year reunion campaign won the Arts, Entertainment & Media Campaign of the Year award at the November 2007 Asia Pacific PR Awards.
During the 1990s, Kraft released a product in Australia known as Vegemite Singles. It combined two of Kraft’s major products, Kraft Singles and Vegemite, into one, thus creating Vegemite-flavoured cheese. This extension of the Vegemite product line was an attempt by Kraft to capitalise on the enormous popularity of Vegemite and cheese sandwiches (made by placing a slice of cheese into a Vegemite sandwich). Vegemite Singles were later taken off the market.
On 13 June 2009, Kraft released a new version of Vegemite. The formula combines Vegemite and Kraft cream cheese, spreads more easily and has a considerably less salty and milder taste than the original. To coincide with the release of the new recipe, Kraft ran a competition to give the new flavour a name. The new name was announced during the broadcast of the 2009 AFL Grand Final as iSnack 2.0. The name was chosen by a panel of marketing and communication experts to appeal to a younger market, capitalising on the popularity of Apple’s iPod and iPhone. The choice immediately drew universal criticism and ridicule within Australia. Within days, opinion columns and social networking sites were flooded with derision and vitriol, and after only four days, Kraft released plans to abandon the iSnack name, admitting that it may have been a mistake. Two days later, Kraft opened a new poll on its website, and the final name was announced on 7 October 2009 as “Vegemite Cheesybite”, with Kraft claiming that it had received 36% of the 30,357 votes that were cast for a name option, or approximately 10,900 votes. It was noted that the popular suggestion “Cheesymite”, long associated with the popular Cheesymite scroll, was already trademarked by other organisations.
My First Vegemite
In 2011, Kraft Foods Australia launched “My First Vegemite”, a special formulation of original Vegemite for children aged older than one year. According to Kraft, the new formula has a “milder taste” and “additional health benefits including iron, B6 and B12 vitamins as well as 50% less sodium”, and was designed in response to consumer demand for foods with lower sugar and salt content plus additional health benefits. Immediate reaction and media reports regarding the new formula were largely positive, but Kraft Foods Australia discontinued the “My First Vegemite” product line in 2012 due to poor sales performance.
Chocolate and Vegemite
In April 2015, Cadbury announced that it was to release a Vegemite-flavoured block of chocolate on 1 June. The chocolate block is Cadbury’s Caramello block updated by mixing vegemite with the chocolate. Critics described the taste as similar to salted caramel with a pleasant umami aftertaste. Criticism varied from “love it” to tasting like a “caramel and turkish delight filling with a lot of salt” to “needs more salt” with several tasters commenting that they thought the aftertaste was unpleasant.
Bans and rumours of bans
In October 2006, an Australian news company reported that Vegemite had been banned in the United States, and that the United States Customs Service had gone so far as to search Australians entering the country for Vegemite because it contains folate, a B vitamin approved as an additive in the United States for just a few foods, including breakfast cereals. The story appears to have originated as an anecdote by a traveller who claimed to have been searched by U.S. Customs and a spokesperson for Kraft made a misinformed comment to reporters. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration later stated that there were no plans to subject Vegemite to an import ban, or withdraw it from supermarket shelves. The United States Customs and Border Protection tried to dispel the rumour, stating on its website that “there is no known prohibition on the importation of Vegemite” and “there is no official policy within CBP targeting Vegemite for interception”. The story of the “ban” later took on the status of urban legend. While Vegemite has never been popular in the US, it can still be purchased at supermarkets that stock imported food items.
Following newspaper reports in May 2011 that Vegemite and Marmite had been banned and were being removed from shelves in Denmark, outraged fans set up several Facebook groups. In response, Denmark’s Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries stated that neither spread had been banned but that the respective companies had not applied for licences to market their products in Denmark. In 2004 Denmark had passed legislation prohibiting the sale of food products fortified with vitamins as a danger to health.
Vegemite is banned from Victorian prisons, with the bans beginning to come into effect from the 1990s, to prevent inmates from brewing alcohol using the paste’s high yeast content, despite the fact that Vegemite contains no live yeast. Similar bans were proposed in 2015 for a number of dry communities in outback Australia, but were not enacted.
Hugh Jackman Shows Jimmy How to Really Eat Vegemite
Hugh Jackman pulls out a toaster to show Jimmy the proper Aussie way to eat Vegemite on toast.
Vegemite is one of the richest sources of B vitamins, specifically thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid. Unlike Marmite and some other yeast extracts, the base version contains no vitamin B12 although both B6 and vitamin B12 are both added to the low-salt formulation.
The main ingredient of Vegemite is yeast extract, which contains a high concentration of glutamic acid, the source of Vegemite’s rich umami flavour. Vegemite has negligible fat (0.9g), no added sugar or animal content. Vegemite contains gluten.
The low-salt version of Vegemite with a distinctive pale orange lid, was introduced to the Australian domestic market in September 2014, offering a 25% reduction in sodium content. The low-salt version is also fortified with vitamins B6 and vitamin B12.
- What is vegemite made from?The ingredients in vegemite have not changed since it was first introduced in 1923. Our recipe is a closely guarded secret, however we can tell you it’s rich in B vitamins, contains virtually no fat, and contributes almost no kilojoules to the diet.The B vitamins (thiamin B1, riboflavin B2, niacin B3 and folate) in vegemite help to provide vitality to help get your day started. Thiamin is essential for brain function, Riboflavin supports your nervous system, Niacin is essential for energy release and Folate helps to fight fatigue.
vegemite should be enjoyed as part of a balanced, varied diet and active lifestyle.
- Where is vegemite made?vegemite has been made in Australia since it was first launched in 1923. Vegemite’s home is at the manufacturing plant located in Port Melbourne, Victoria.
- Is vegemite high in salt?You may be surprised to know that an average five gram serve of vegemite has a similar amount of sodium as 1-2 slices of bread or a bowl of cereal.
- Is vegemite kosher certified?vegemite products are certified kosher by Kosher Australia and the kosher status is denoted by a ‘K’ before the ‘best before’ date. Further information regarding certification can be found by visiting their website at www.kosher.org.au.
- Is vegemite certified Halal?vegemite is certified Halal by The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. Vegemite is made on a dedicated production line and does not contain or come into contact with any animal derived ingredients and the yeast in the product has been processed to ensure the product is alcohol free.
- Are all the ingredients in vegemite sourced from within Australia?We pride our self on being made in Australia, for Australians since it launched down under in 1923. More than 90% of vegemite’s ingredients are sourced from within Australia, with a small amount of yeast and other flavourings imported.
- Is vegemite gluten free?Some of the key ingredients of vegemite are malt extract derived from barley and yeast extract, from yeast grown on barley and wheat, therefore it is not gluten free.
- Does vegemite contain genetically modified ingredients?vegemite, as well as all our products, does not contain genetically modified material. We only use food ingredients that meet our strict criteria of safety and quality conform to all relevant legal requirements and importantly, respond to the preferences of our customers and consumers.
- How do I store vegemite?vegemite is a shelf stable product and once opened can be stored in the cupboard or pantry right up until the best before date.
- Is vegemite suitable for vegans and vegetarians?vegemite is suitable for both vegans and vegetarians. The product is made on a dedicated production line and does not contain or come into contact with any animal derived ingredients.
- Is it safe to give vegemite to infants?We would always recommend that you speak with your health centre nurse or general practitioner to discuss your baby’s individual dietary requirements, however, as a guide the perfect time to introduce vegemite is when your baby is enjoying a variety of solid foods.