Vegemite is what I would call “an acquired taste” and not being raised on the stuff, I’ve never liked it much. But, although no longer Australian-owned, it is still very much an Aussie icon – along with kangaroos, meat pies and Holden cars.
The vegemite story began in 1922 when a young chemist was hired by the Fred Walker Company to develop a spread from brewer’s yeast – one of the richest known natural sources of the Vitamin B group. The company launched a national competition in 1923 to give the new spread a name and Vegemite was chosen from the hundreds of entries. It was marketed as being “delicious on sandwiches and toast” and for improving the flavour of soups and gravy.
It was not immediately popular and the English spread, Marmite, continued to dominate the market. It took another twenty years before Vegemite became a staple of every Australian kitchen. WWII cemented its place as an Australian icon when war shortages and the need to supply the troops fighting overseas forced Vegemite to be rationed at home and its popularity grew with its scarcity.
In 1954, a radio campaign for Vegemite created a jingle named “Happy Little Vegemites” which later became a TV ad and continued into the late 60’s with occasional nostalgic revivals since. Most Aussies can sing that little jingle word perfect – it’s embedded in our collective consciousness!
We’re happy little Vegemites as bright as bright can be
We all enjoy our Vegemite for breakfast, lunch and tea
Our Mummies say we’re growing stronger every single week
Because we love our Vegemite
We all adore our Vegemite
It puts a rose in every cheek
On average, 22 million jars are sold annually – one for every Australian. Oprah’s tried it and didn’t gag but US President Obama had a taste and declared it “horrible”. The trick is to spread it very thinly on a cracker or toast so it is just a “taste” and not a black, sticky, unpalatable glob of salty goo!