From Academic Kids

Vegemite (pronounced "VEH-gee-mite", IPA: ) is the registered brand name for a dark brown, salty food paste mainly used as a spread on sandwiches and toast, though occasionally used in cooking. Popular in Australia and New Zealand—Vegemite is semi-jokingly called one of Australia's national foods—it is seldom found elsewhere. Food technologist Dr. Cyril P. Callister invented Vegemite in 1923 when his employer, the Australian Fred Walker Company, had him develop a spread from Brewer's Yeast.

Vegemite is based on a yeast extract. It is actually a by-product of brewing and also contains malt extract. Vegemite is a rich source of the vitamin B group, including Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), and Folate (B6).

Vegemite's current name was picked at random out of a hat by Fred Walker's daughter, Sheilah. The name reflects the use of vegetable and yeast extract as compared to the beef and yeast extract that Marmite is made from. Vegemite's (somewhat saltier) taste and manufacture are similar to the British Marmite, and indeed the product was for a short time known as "Parwill" as a pun on Marmite's name (as in the sentence: "Marmite not like the taste, but I'm sure Parwill"), however this attempt to compete with Marmite's growing share of the market was unsuccessful and the name was changed back to Vegemite. Today Vegemite far outsells Marmite and other similar spreads in both Australia and New Zealand. The brand is now owned by Kraft Foods, an American multinational that is part of the Phillip Morris tobacco company in the Altria Group of companies.

Vegemite on toast.
Vegemite on toast.

While highly popular in Australia and New Zealand, it has never been successfully marketed elsewhere. It is notorious for the dislike it generates amongst some foreigners, particularly Americans. Note that Vegemite is not liked by all Australians - many find it far too salty to be palatable - but it has been said that "Australians would go to war over their Vegemite".

Vegemite is often spread with liberal amounts of butter to help to soften the strong taste, or with sliced or melted cheese. It is also a key ingredient in the popular "Cheesymite Scroll" or "Cheddarmite Scroll" produced by bakeries in Australia, a savoury spiral pastry which includes cheese spread and vegemite.

Vegemite's rise to popularity was helped by marketing campaigns in the 1940s, using groups of smiling, attractive healthy children singing a catchy jingle entitled "We're happy little Vegemites". Indeed, many Australians still use the phrase "happy little Vegemite" to describe such children. Re-edited versions of the advertisements and jingle continue to be used for their appeal to patriotic nostalgia.

Many non-Australians became aware of Vegemite when it was mentioned in the lyrics of "Down Under". This worldwide hit for the Australian pop group Men At Work in the early 1980s was used as an "unofficial anthem" when Australia won the America's Cup sailing competition.

Products similar to Vegemite

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