From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search
Vegemite on toast.

Vegemite (IPA: /ˈvɛdʒɨmaɪt/) is a dark brown food paste made from yeast extract, used mainly as a spread on sandwiches, toast and cracker biscuits, as well as a filling of pastries like Cheesymite scroll, in Australia. It is similar to British and New Zealand Marmite and to Swiss Cenovis.

Vegemite is made from leftover brewers' yeast extract, a by-product of beer manufacturing, and various vegetable and spice additives. The taste may be described as salty, slightly bitter, and malty - somewhat similar to the taste of beef bouillon. The texture is smooth and sticky, much like peanut butter. It is not as intensely flavoured as British Marmite and it is less sweet than the New Zealand version of Marmite.

Vegemite is popular with many Australians, who commonly consider it a national food and a cultural icon.[1] It can be found in shops around the world, particularly where there are large populations of Australian expatriates. Vegemite has not been successfully marketed in other countries, apart from New Zealand, and has failed to catch on in the United States, despite being owned by US food company Kraft Foods. When seen in the United States, the Vegemite label often does not contain the Kraft logo.


[edit] History

Fred Walker's company first created and sold Vegemite in 1922.

Vegemite was invented in 1922[2] by food technologist Dr. Cyril P. Callister when his employer, the Australian company Fred Walker & Co., gave him the task of developing a spread from brewers' yeast following the disruption of British Marmite imports after World War I. Callister had been hired by the chairman Fred Walker.[3] Vegemite was registered as a trademark in Australia that same year. The registration was later transferred to Kraft, a US multinational, which has maintained an interest in Vegemite since the 1920s. In 1919, New Zealand company Sanitarium began manufacturing a version of Vegemite's biggest competitor, Marmite, and shipping it to Australia.

The name Vegemite was selected out of a hat by Fred Walker's daughter, Sheilah. Faced with growing competition from Marmite, the product was known from 1928 to 1935 as Parwill, leading to the advertising slogan, "Marmite but Parwill." that is, "Ma [mother] might [like the taste] but Pa [father] will." This attempt to expand market share was unsuccessful and the name was changed back to Vegemite. Today Vegemite far outsells Marmite and other similar spreads in Australia.

The billionth jar of Vegemite was produced in October 2008.[4]

[edit] Vegemite and cheese

During the 1990s, Kraft released a product in Australia known as Vegemite Singles. It combined two of Kraft's major products into one. The product consisted of Kraft Singles with Vegemite added, 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, possibly due to poor sales.

[edit] United States ban rumour

In October 2006, the Melbourne newspaper, the Herald Sun incorrectly 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. The story appears to have originated as an anecdote by a traveler who claimed to have been searched by US Customs. Also, a spokesperson for Kraft made a misinformed comment to reporters. The story led to some anti-American comments in blogs and newspapers. The Herald Sun blamed the US President for the ban, and encouraged readers to post comments on its website and send emails to the White House.

The US Food and Drug Administration later stated that although it is technically illegal in the US to add folate to food products other than grains, there were no plans to investigate whether Vegemite contains folate, subject it to an import ban, or withdraw it from supermarket shelves. The United States Customs and Border Protection also tried to dispel the rumor, 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".[5] The story of the "ban" later took on the status of urban legend.[6] While Vegemite has never been popular in the U.S., it can still be purchased at supermarkets that stock imported food items.[7]

[edit] Nutritional information

Vegemite is rich in B vitamins, but unlike Marmite and some other yeast extracts, it is not artificially fortified with vitamin B12. It also contains glutamic acid, an amino acid found in yeast extract, that is related to monosodium glutamate.[8]

[edit] Advertising and branding

Different Vegemite jars - National Museum of Australia

Vegemite's rise to popularity was helped by marketing campaigns begun in 1954, using groups of smiling, attractive healthy children singing a catchy jingle entitled "We're happy little Vegemites". The two young twin girls who sang this advertising jingle were known as the "Vegemite Twins". In March 2007, Kraft announced that they are trying to trace the original children from the campaign to celebrate the advertisement's fiftieth anniversary.

[edit] Australian slang usage

This jingle gave rise to an Australian slang expression "happy little Vegemite" – a happy person. This first became popular in the 1950s, from a 1959 advertising jingle: "We're happy little Vegemites as bright as bright can be. We all enjoy our Vegemite for breakfast, lunch and tea". Since then it has also been extended, ad hoc, to various similar expressions, such as "good little Vegemite" and "clever little Vegemite". The term is also used in the (often humorously intentioned) derogatory slang for a male homosexual in "Visitor to Vegemite Valley", referenced by the Barry Humphries character Sir Les Patterson. In the film Hercules Returns, Hercules worriedly asks "Does this mean that I'm a visitor to Vegemite Valley"?

New Zealand Marmite and New Zealand-made Vegemite side by side.

[edit] Popular culture

I said, "Do you speak-a my language?"
He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich.
  • The original 1986 lyric to the John Williamson song "True Blue" included the lines "Is it standing by your mate/ When he's in a fight?/ Or just Vegemite?" later Williamson changed the final line to "Or will she be right?"
  • Vegemite is also mentioned in Williamson's song "Home Among the Gum Trees": "You can see me in the kitchen/ Cooking up a roast/ Or Vegemite on toast". Williamson sang both songs at the memorial service for Steve Irwin.[9]
  • The Vegemite Tales, by Melanie Tait, is an Australian comic show regularly performed in London's West End.
  • In The Simpsons it is noted that one can purchase a foot-long Vegemite Sub from Subway during their trip to Australia.
  • In a webisode of The Academy Is... TV (or TAI TV), the band's rhythm guitar player, Michael Guy Chislett, and the lead singer, William Beckett, experiment with Vegemite by putting everyone that they were currently on tour with to a taste test that they called, The American Vegemite Taste Test. The test ended in most of the bands disliking or nearly throwing up. Michael happens to be Australian and he is a vegetarian.

[edit] References

  1. ^ Prime Minister of Australia (2008) – Australian Icons – retrieved 9 April 2008
  2. ^
  3. ^ Farrer, K.T.H.. "Walker, Fred (1884 - 1935)" (Web Bio). Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved on 2008-02-08. 
  4. ^,23739,24449523-953,00.html
  5. ^ "Why is CBP Seizing Vegemite?". U.S. Customs and Border Protection (via October 31, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-10-31. 
  6. ^ "Vegemite Ban". Snopes (via October 28, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-12-22. 
  7. ^ "US denies Vegemite ban". AAP (via October 25, 2006.,23599,20641599-1702,00.html. Retrieved on 2006-10-25. 
  8. ^ Food Standards Australia New Zealand (2006). "Spread, Yeast, Vegemite". NUTTAB 2006. Retrieved on 10 November 2008. 
  9. ^ Williamson, John (2006). "HOME AMONG THE GUMTREES". Retrieved on 2008-05-18. 

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Personal tools