1. Food

Vegemite - An Australian Icon

A savory spread that defies description

By

Vegemite on toast

A typical Aussie breakfast

S. Wongkaew

Vegemite: you either love it or you hate it. Australians tend to love it and have done so since 1923. Everyone else isn't so sure. Vegemite is without doubt the most famous Australian food.

History

Vegemite is a dark brown savory spread. It was invented in 1922 by Dr. Cyril Callister, a chemist employed by the Fred Walker Company which later became Kraft Foods Limited.

The spread hit the shelves the following year, it took a long 14 years for it to become popular. In 1939, Vegemite gained official product endorsement from the British Medical Association. Doctors started to prescribe it for its vitamin B.

By 1942, Vegemite was firmly fixed in Australian hearts. During the Second World War, the spread had to be rationed in order to meet the huge demand for it from the Armed Forces.

In 1952 Kraft released the "Happy Little Vegemite" jingle on radio. The song featured children happily singing about the positive health effects of eating Vegemite for "breakfast, lunch and tea". Two years later, the song made its way to television and continues to feature in Vegemite's advertising to the present day.

How it is used

Vegemite is an acquired taste; probably best spread lightly. Its taste can best be described as salty with a subtle bitterness (although honestly this is one product that defies description).

It is lightly spread on toast or crackers with some butter. It can also be spread on toast with peanut butter or cheese slices or spread on toast with eggs and sometimes used to flavor soup stocks.

New Zealanders, while many like Vegemite, tend to prefer Marmite. Marmite has quite a similar taste to Vegemite, but it’s slightly sweeter.

Facts

  • Vegemite is made from leftover brewers' yeast.
  • Vegemite is rich in vitamins B1, B2, B3 and folate. A single 5g serving of Vegemite provides from 25-50% of the recommended daily intake for these four vitamins.
  • In a failed effort to increase sales, Vegemite briefly changed its name in 1928 to "Parwill".
  • For 80 years the original recipe for Vegemite has remained almost unchanged.
  • In 1999 Vegemite became available in plastic tubes, similar to toothpaste tubes, making it easier to transport.
  • Twenty-two million jars of Vegemite are sold each year.

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