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Vegemite History - All One Billion Jars of It

Updated on December 9, 2012

Vegemite - One Billion Jars Of Australian History

The billionth jar of this famous Australian spread rolled off the production line in October 2008. The Vegemite history begins in 1922 when it was first produced by the Fred Walker Company. The nutritious black spread is now famous around the world and can be found on the shelf or in the pantry of most Australian homes.

Normally served on toast or in sandwiches, Vegemite's savoury flavour can also be added to recipes.

We're Happy Little Vegemites - The Alternative Australian Anthem

Vegemite - In the Beginning

In the beginning, there was the British Marmite. Then in the early 1920's, due to a shortage of supply the Fred Walker Cheese Company decided to make it's own Yeast extract based spread. Thanks to food technologist Cyrill P Callister, Vegemite (although still unnamed at that time) was born. The nutritious spread would soon become known as one of the worlds richest sources of Vitamin B.

A name was needed for the new product so in 1923 Fred Walker hit upon the idea of holding a competition. 50 pounds (which was a princely sum in 1923) was on offer for the winner. According to history the winning entry was drawn from a hat by Fred's daughter, Sheilah. The winners name has not been recorded. "Vegemite" was the name chosen and the first jars were soon on the shelves. It was advertised as being great on toast and in sandwiches and also added flavour to soups, gravies and stews.

In 1926 the company name was changed to the Kraft Walker Cheese Company. A limited edition ceramic jar was produced this year which is now very valuable as a collectors item.

Due to slow take up by the Australian public, by 1928 Walker thought new marketing with a new name might be in Order. He came up with the name "Parwill" as a play on words based on the main competitor, Marmite. The catchphrase being "Marmite but Parwill". Parwill was only ever merchandised in the state of Queensland and was not successful. Walker realised there was still more potential with the original Vegemite brand.

In the mid 1930's a new marketing strategey was used. Vegemite redemption coupons were included in the packaging of Kraft cheddar cheese. Hordes of Australians redeemed the vouchers and sales of Vegemite leapt along with it's reputation as a tasty nutritious spread.

In 1939, just prior to the start of World War II, the British Medical Association endorsed the nutritional value of Vegemite. This allowed it to be advertised in medical journals and promoted by medical professionals as a vitamin B rich food ideal for patients.

You can buy Vegemite Online!

Vegemite 150g Jar
Vegemite 150g Jar

Vegemite is made in Australia and comes in a 150gr jar. Vegemite is best used sparingly as it has a strong flavor. Even though it has a beef flavor it is a vegetarian product made from yeast extract. Excellent for use in cooking or as a spread.

Yeast extract


Made in Australia

Beef Flavor


Vegemite for Vitality!

It puts a rose in every cheek!

Vegemite - 20 years later and into the future

In the 1940's the popularity of Vegemite continued to increase among millions of Australians. This was greatly assisted by the uptake of electric appliances, especially the humble electric toaster. In the late 1940's infant care centres were advocating an increase of vitamins B1, B2 and Niacin for babies. Vegemite contained them all.

The 1950's were a period of more "firsts" for Vegemite. 1952 saw the introduction of the Kraft company logo to the Vegemite label. This was the first time the label had displayed the Walker company connection with it's American counterpart. 1954 was the year the "Happy Little Vegemites" jingle was first used. This catchy little tune is still in use and familiar to all Australians over 50 years later. Clear glass jars were used for the first time in 1956.

The 1970's saw a new advertising campaign with the "Pass the Vegemite please Mum" slogan.

In the 1980's a new advertisiig strategy was used, targetted mainly at teenagers and young adults. The product was promoted by well known sporting celebrities, Peter Brock, Ken Rosewall and actress Helen Morse. In 1984 a jar of Vegemite was the first product to be scanned electronically in a store in Australia. The jar was scanned in the Woolworths supermarket at Chullora and it can still be seen displayed in the Woolworths Head Office in NSW.

The 1990's saw the introduction of the now familiar tamper proof lids. Vegemite celebrated it's 70th birthday. New advertising campaigns were launched using a revamped version of the "Happy Little Vegemites" tune and the Vegemite breakfast campaign using humorous messages to promote the B group Vitamins.

The 2000's see Vegemite's nutritional message continuing to spread by school competitions with the theme "The future is a bright as can be". 2006 saw rumours that Vegemite had been banned in the United states due to it's high folate content but this was eventully revealed to be a hoax. Vegemite can still be purchased in the USA.

Are You a Vegemite Lover?

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    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 

      7 years ago from Ljubljana

      I have heard a lot about Vegemite, but never had a chance to try it. I guess Slovenia is too small market for this.

    • nadjaiskeniskie profile image


      7 years ago

      I travel everywhere with my Vegemite. It lives in my day bag. Vegemite on apple slices or slices of cheese = fantastic (which, surprisingly, is also the security word for adding this comment. Coincidence? I think not).

    • KiwiGayle profile image


      8 years ago

      Just added this lens as a 'featured lens' on my new lens on Kiwi Food in the USA. I'm currently waiting on an order for a big bucket of vegemite as in my bio photo! Great lens

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I'm a Marmite man myself . . . but Vegemite is good too.

      Really amused by the Pawill thing :0) Great lens, 5 stars.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image


      10 years ago

      I've never tried Vegemite, but should, since I'm a vegetarian. A billion jars is pretty darn impressive! Welcome to Culinary Favorites From A to Z.

    • StevenCousley profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven Cousley 

      10 years ago from Young, NSW, Australia

      I've tried marmite and it didn't impress me. Maybe it was just my local bias. My kids were all raised on Vegemite so they would most likely prefer it to any other black, sticky, salty, savoury spread as well.[in reply to EverythingMouse]

    • AlisonMeacham profile image


      10 years ago

      I love Marmite but admit I have never tried vegemite. Marmite is the one thing I always make sure I bring back from my visits to the UK! My children love it but most people I have subjected to it in the US seem to think it is very strange indeed........

    • StevenCousley profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven Cousley 

      10 years ago from Young, NSW, Australia

      Thank you kindly, those yankees need to learn how to appreciate good tucker. If they try to spread it on like peanut butter they are bound to have problems. :) [in reply to KiwiGayle]

    • KiwiGayle profile image


      10 years ago

      Yay - another great lens to add to the Vegemite underground movement. I'm slowly introducing my Yankee friends to its delights. Very informative. Take the Vegemite Poll on my Kiwis in America website. 5 stars


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