History of Vegemite

March 8, 2011


President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Julia Gillard addressed a room of schoolchildren in Virginia on March 7.  Over the course of their visit, one child asked the distinguished world leaders about Vegemite— one of Australia's most notorious food products. Gillard said, "I love Vegemite," but Obama called it "horrible." Much has been made of the food, but little is known about it. Here's some quick information:

In 1922, Fred Walker decided that the world needed a spread made from "yeast extracts" that would be delicious and nutritious as well. Dr. Cyril P. Callister was the chief scientist then, and developed a spread from brewer's yeast extracts and vegetables (like celery and onion). At that time Australia already had a spread called Marmite and sales were initially very slow for the new "Vegemite."

With time, the spread took off and was adopted by the Australian people as a national treasure. Today, children eat Vegemite from a young age. Most people outside of the country consider it an acquired taste. The spread gained international recognition when "Men at Work" mentioned Vegemite in their hit song "Down Under."

The storied product has gone through a recent image redesign in Australia. Parents were concerned about the level of salt in the product, so Kraft (who produces Vegemite) cut salt and boosted vitamins in "My First Vegemite," a new product created with young children in mind.


Photo by Flickr user Scootie



Amanda's picture

Vegemite was developed to fill a gap left in the Australian market when Marmite supplies from England were disrupted following the war. It was largely made from the yeast waste dumped by breweries and is a very rich source of the B group of vitamins. What many don't realise is that it is also extremely high in umami - the savoury taste that is one of the 5 basic tastes.
It certainly does seem to be an acquired taste for those not brought up on it, but for those of us that were it is indispensable and the main component of care packages sent to Aussies living overseas.
Best served spread on hot buttered toast or in a sandwich, but also best spread by the consumer as there can be heated differences over the density with which it should be spread!