VEGEMITE brand has a history spanning over 90 years. Its story began in
1922 when the Fred Walker Company, which would later become Kraft Food
Company, hired a young chemist to develop a spread from one of the
richest known natural sources in the Vitamin B group – brewer’s yeast.
months of laboratory tests, Dr. Cyril P Callister, Australia’s leading
food technologist of the 1920s and 30s, developed a tasty, spreadable
paste. It was labelled ‘Pure Vegetable Extract’.
The Spread That Could
Fred Walker Company initiated an ingenious plan; to have the Australian
public officially name their spread. A national competition was
launched, offering an attractive 50 pound prize pool for finalists.
Unfortunately, the name of the winning contestant was not recorded, but
it was Fred Walker’s daughter who chose the winning name – VEGEMITE –
out of hundreds of entries. In 1923, VEGEMITE spread graced the shelves
of grocers Australia wide. “Delicious on sandwiches and toast, and
improving the flavours of soups, stews and gravies,” was how the spread
was first described and marketed.
reality was that Marmite, a thick, dark English spread, already
dominated the Australian market and Australians were reluctant to even
try Fred Walker’s locally made product. Poor sales of VEGEMITE spread
resulted in its name being changed in 1928 to ‘Parwill’. Walker was
determined to emulate the success of Marmite and the logic behind the
re-branding strategy was simple; “If Marmite…then Parwill.”
innovative method of marketing was, however, unsuccessful. Parwill
failed to gain momentum across the country. It would take Fred Walker 14
years of perseverance and a change back to the original VEGEMITE brand
for Australians to embrace what would later become an Australian icon.
The Spread That Did
1937, a limerick competition with substantial prizes – including
Pontiac cars – was just the promotion to not only encourage entries, but
also sales of VEGEMITE spread nation wide. Following the successful
promotion, the VEGEMITE brand gained official product endorsement from
the British Medical Association in 1939 and began advertising in the
British Medical Journal. Medical professionals and baby care experts
were even recommending VEGEMITE spread as a Vitamin B rich,
nutritionally balanced food to their patients. By 1942, exactly twenty
years after it was first developed, the VEGEMITE brand had become a
staple food in every Australian home and in every Australian pantry.
World War II the Armed Forces were buying VEGEMITE spread in bulk, due
to the product’s nutritional value. Fred Walker’s company had to ration
VEGEMITE spread on a per capita basis across Australia in order to meet
the demand. It’s well known that absence makes the heart grow fonder,
and so the reduced supply of that ubiquitous VEGEMITE flavour grew in
the hearts of Australians. Once World War II had ended – coupled with
the post-war migrant and baby boom – VEGEMITE spread was well and truly a
part of Australia’s history – and its heart.
The Song of Australia
1954, a trio of bright, energetic youngsters burst into song on radio
to a toe-tapping jingle named ‘Happy Little Vegemites’. Two years later,
Kraft Foods developed the infectious song into a television campaign,
which continued intermittently through to the late 1960s. For the next
decade, Australians were informed through advertising of the nutritional
benefits of VEGEMITE spread for people of all ages, and it wasn’t until
the dawn of the 1980s when the original ‘Happy Little Vegemites’
commercials, re-mastered and colourised, were broadcast to an entire new
generation of Australians who were offered the chance to revel in the
VEGEMITE brand’s nostalgia – and have a rose placed in every cheek
thanks to what has become Australia’s second, unofficial national
anthem. This commercial was brought out again in 2010 to remind
Australians of their love for the iconic brand.
The Spread We Love
aren’t many products or brands that have been embraced in the same
style, or with the same amount of love, as the VEGEMITE brand has been.
And there are certainly not many that continue to. The world may be
forever evolving but one thing that remains the same is VEGEMITE
spread’s relatively unchanged recipe. It’s loved by children, teenagers
and adults. It’s still consumed by our troops overseas. It’s carried in
the suitcases and backpacks of Australian travellers, as a small
reminder, and a small taste, of home.
a reason over 22 million jars of VEGEMITE spread are sold every year
and it’s because there’s no other concentrated spread out there so full
of Vitamin B and nutrients, so pleasing to the palate and so
intrinsically linked with Australia’s past and future as the VEGEMITE
spread can be enjoyed in many ways – and is not just limited to toast
and crackers. Visit our recipe section to see the varied and versatile
ways you can incorporate VEGEMITE spread into your diet.