Sunday, May 11, 2014


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Buying bread from a man in Brussels
He was six foot four and full of muscle
I said, "Do you speak my language?"
He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich
        - Lyric, Land Down Under, Men at Work

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! 
We're growing stronger every week.
        - Lyrics, Vegemite ad, 1954

“President Obama assured me he had tried Vegemite, he had tried spreading it thinly because that's the classic error, that people pile it on. But he said even spreading it on thinly as you're supposed to, he thought it was horrible.”
        - Prime Minister Julia Gillard, having met with US President Obama in the US in March, 2011

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Vegemite is a dark brown Australian food paste made from leftover brewers' yeast extract with various vegetable and spice additives. A popular 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, Swiss Cenovis and German Hefeextrakt. With the brand now owned by American company Mondelez International, other Australian-owned spreads have entered the market to provide an alternative, such as the yeast-based AussieMite and Ozemite products. Vegemite is salty, slightly bitter and malty, and rich in umami – similar to beef bouillon. The texture is smooth and the product is a paste. It is not as intensely flavoured as British Marmite and it is less sweet than the New Zealand version of Marmite.

I personally can’t stand the stuff, find it revolting, notwithstanding that it is regarded as an Australian icon, as much as apple pie in America and haggis in Scotland. It is one of two foods I won’t touch, the other is coriander. Yechhh!!

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  • In the late 19th century German scientist Justus von Liebig discovered that brewer's yeast could be concentrated, bottled and eaten.

  • The Marmite Food Extract Company was formed 1902 in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, England. Its main product was the sale of Marmite, with the label for the product displaying a large, covered earthenware or metal cooking pot, known in French as a “marmite”. Today the UK labels for Marmite still carry that image:

  • The product's popularity prompted the Sanitarium Health Food to obtain sole rights to distribute the product in New Zealand and Australia in 1908.
  • Exports to Australia were disrupted by World War 1, to the extent that in 1919, the Australian company Fred Walker & Co., gave employee Cyril P Callister, a chemist, the task of developing a spread from the used yeast being dumped by breweries. Callister blended the broken down yeast with salt, celery and onion extracts[ to form the sticky black paste and it was first created and sold in 1922.
  • The name of the Australian spread came from a nationwide competition, with the name Vegemite being selected by a draw from 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.
  • Poor sales as a result of competing with Marmite saw the name changed to Parwill in 1928. The slogan was “If Marmite . . . then Parwill.” The name change was as successful as you may have expected and the name was changed back to Vegemite in 1935.

  • Using marketing and promotional techniques which included advertising, giveaways, poetry competitions and prizes which included cars, Vegemite was able to become competitive. 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 Atmy rations and by the late 1940s was used in nine out of ten Australian homes.
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Some ads:

1920’s advertising:









and, of course, the famous classic “We're happy little Vegemites” ad from 1954:


You can have my portion.

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