Vegemite is arguably THE one single iconic word that epitomizes Australian culture.
Vegemite was invented in Melbourne in 1922 when Australian food manufacturer Fred Walker asked chemist CP Callister to create a product similar to British Marmite.
In the 1950s and 60s, despite acquisition by the American company Kraft, Vegemite became a distinctively ‘Australian’ food, featuring in songs, and on souvenirs and other popular culture ephemera.
As overseas travel increased, Vegemite was carried around the world by Australians as a way to reaffirm their connection to home.
In 1919, following the disruption of British Marmite imports after World War I and prior to the introduction of Vegemite, Callister's employer, the Australian company Fred Walker & Co., gave him the task of developing a spread from the used yeast being dumped by breweries. Callister had been hired by the chairman Fred Walker. Vegemite was registered as a trademark in Australia that same year. Callister used autolysis to break down the yeast cells from waste obtained from the Carlton & United brewery. Concentrating the clear liquid extract and blending with salt, celery and onion extracts formed a sticky black paste.
Following a nationwide competition with a prize of £50 (2010:$3,527) to find a name for the new spread, the name "Vegemite" was selected out of 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 entered the winning name and were known as "The Vegemite Girls" for the rest of their long lives. Vegemite first appeared on the market in 1923 with advertising emphasising the value of Vegemite to children's health but failed to sell very well. Faced with growing competition from Marmite, from 1928 to 1935 the product was renamed as "Parwill" to make use of the advertising slogan "Marmite but Parwill", a convoluted pun on the new name and that of its competitor; "If Ma [mother] might... then Pa [father] will." This attempt to expand market share was unsuccessful and the name was changed back to Vegemite; but did not recover lost market share.
In 1925, Walker had established the Kraft Walker Cheese Co. as a joint venture company with J.L. Kraft & Bros to market processed cheese and, following the failure of Parwill, in 1935 he used the success of Kraft Walker Cheese to promote Vegemite. In a two-year campaign to promote sales, Vegemite was given away free with Kraft Walker cheese products (with a coupon redemption) and this was followed by poetry competitions with imported American Pontiac cars being offered as prizes.Sales responded and 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 Army rations and by the late 1940s was used in nine out of ten Australian homes.
In April 1984, a 115-gram jar of vegemite became the first product in Australia to be electronically scanned at a checkout.
Vegemite is produced in Australia at Mondelez's Port Melbourne manufacturing facility which produces more than 22 million jars per year. Virtually unchanged from Callister's original recipe, Vegemite now far outsells Marmite and other similar spreads in Australia. The billionth jar of Vegemite was produced in October 2008.
Vegemite was also produced in New Zealand for over fifty years, but as of August 2006 New Zealand production had ceased.
HOW TO EAT VEGEMITE:
VEGEMITE will be Australian-owned once again after Bega Cheese agreed to buy the iconic spread and other well-known brands for $460 million. Checkout this link for more information: http://www.news.com.au/finance/business/retail/vegemite-back-in-australian-hands-after-bega-cheese-strikes-460-million-deal/news-story/a77efb34159bc06bbdae8dbcce393f6f