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What is Vegemite? Australia’s Favorite Spread

There are lots of things that come to mind when you think of Australia. From its natural wonders, like the Great Barrier Reef, to its man-made designs like the Sydney Opera House. From kangaroos to Foster’s beer (which was ironically created by two Americans, but is well-known as being Australian), and, of course, Vegemite. 

Vegemite is quintessentially Australian. It is well-loved the whole country over, and it is easy to see why. With a dark appearance and a salty taste, Vegemite is delicious. But its popularity in Australia has not been reflected in other countries across the world. 

Vegemite

Australian Vegemite is very similar to British Marmite. While Vegemite is loved and enjoyed by most Australians, Marmite is a spread that divides the British nation. Marmite has capitalized on the fact that it divides opinion, and even launched a campaign with the slogan “you either love it or hate it”. 

But, while Vegemite is incredibly popular in Australia, this is not reflected in the USA. Due to this, there are quite a lot of Americans who have heard of Vegemite, but don’t quite know what it is. In this guide, we’ll be taking a deep dive into Australia’s favorite spread to find out exactly what it is. 

What is Vegemite?

First things first, let’s take a look at exactly what Vegemite is. If you have ever tried this spread before, then you will know that it is a thick, dark brown spread that is most popular in Australia. It was first developed in Melbourne, Australia in 1922 by Cyril Callister, and is incredibly similar to some other spreads across the world. These include Britain and New Zealand’s Marmite, German Vitam-R, and Swiss Cenovis. These spreads are so similar to one another because they are created using similar key ingredients. 

Vegemite Toast is an Iconic Traditional Australian Breakfast Food.
Vegemite Toast is an Iconic Traditional Australian Breakfast Food.

The key ingredient in Vegemite is leftover yeast extract, which is taken from brewing companies. This yeast extract is mixed with spice and vegetable additives to create a salty, bitter flavor. It is this bitterness that makes British Marmite a love it or hate it spread, but in Australia, Vegemite is incredibly popular. Throughout the years, ownership of the Vegemite name has switched hands multiple times, but it is now once again owned by an Australian company. This is because Bega Cheese bought Vegemite back off of Mondelez in early 2017. 

Vegemite is packed with flavor, effortless to use, and made using very few ingredients. It is all of these factors combined that make Vegemite so popular in Australia. But is it good for you? Let’s find out. 

Is Vegemite Good or Bad for You?

One of the main reasons why Vegemite is so popular in Australia is because of its delicious flavor. But, this isn’t the only good thing about Vegemite. In fact, Vegemite is also very popular because it is very nutritious. A single serving of Vegemite contains just 11 calories, less than 1 gram of fat and carbs, and more than 1.3 grams of protein. But it isn’t this that makes Vegemite so attractive, instead, it is the vitamins and minerals that are also found within it. 

Avocado and poached egg on toast with Vegemite and banana with vegemite on Toast
Avocado and poached egg on toast with Vegemite and banana with vegemite on Toast

In particular, Vegemite is very high in B vitamins. These include Vitamin B1, B9, B2, and B3. Providing 50% of your Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) of Vitamin B1 and B9, and 25%  of your RDI of B2 and B3. You might be wondering what the health benefits of these B vitamins are, so here are just a few of them:

  • Reduced Tiredness and Increased Energy. 
  • Reduced Stress and Anxiety. 
  • Lower Risk of Heart Disease.
  • Boost in Brain Health and Efficiency. 

So, as you can see, Vegemite is actually very good for you. It is low in calories, carbohydrates and fat, but is high in vitamins and minerals that will help boost your health. Taste aside, it is clear to see why Vegemite is so popular in Australia by simply looking at these health benefits. 

Where Does Vegemite Come From?

Vegemite is an Australian brand, so as expected, this spread is produced in Australia. The Vegemite recipe was first designed and developed by a man named Cyril Callister in 1922, in Melbourne, Australia. But, when Vegemite was designed, this wasn’t built with the intention of it being a new product on the market. Instead, it was created to replace British Marmite. 

Spreading the iconic Australian spread vegemite on to a slice of fresh bread
Spreading the iconic Australian spread vegemite on to a slice of fresh bread

During World War 1, the production and importation of British Marmite was understandably disrupted. So, Callister was given the task of creating a spread that used leftover yeast extract from breweries, the same ingredients used to create British Marmite. Callister’s creation was so well enjoyed that Vegemite was registered as a trademark that year, and by the following year, it was being produced for market. 

While Vegemite is clearly an Australian spread, there was a period of time when production actually occurred in New Zealand. This actually happened for more than 50 years, but production ceased in 2006. Now, Vegemite is exclusively made in Australia, and any Vegemite sold outside of Australia is imported from there. But, in the USA, it is often very difficult to find anywhere that sells authentic Australian Vegemite. So why is this? Let’s find out. 

Why is Vegemite Banned in America?

Before we go any further, let’s make it clear that Vegemite is not banned in America. This is a common misconception, and it is one of the main reasons why Vegemite isn’t readily available in the USA. 

For a brief period of time in 2008, it was reported that Vegemite had been banned in the USA because of the presence of folic acid within it. Back then, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) only allowed the presence of folic acid (folate) in breads and cereals. Vegemite, of course, is neither a bread nor a cereal, and so it was not allowed to be sold in the USA. It was even reported by some Australian media that US borders were going as far as searching the luggage of Australian travelers to prevent this spread entering the USA.

However, according to the US Government, Vegemite was never banned in the USA, the reports that were spread in Australian media were simply false. Despite this, you will notice that Vegemite isn’t readily available in the USA, and this is simply because it never successfully penetrated this market. That being said, if you want to buy Vegemite in the USA, you can. Check out World food markets, and Australian stores, such as Simply Australian, and you will be able to find Vegemite on sale. 

Other Things to Know about Vegemite 

Before we wrap this up, we’ve compiled this quick list of other fun facts that you should know about Vegemite. So, if you want to find out more about this spread, then keep on reading. 

  • Vegemite was designed to be used with crackers, crumpets, toast, and sandwiches. But the chocolate company, Cadbury, has produced a Vegemite flavored chocolate bar in the past. 
  • Vegemite is very inclusive as it is vegan, Halal, and Kosher. 
  • The name ‘Vegemite’ was picked out of a hat following a Nationwide competition to name this spread. 
  • Nobody knows the exact recipe of Vegemite, this is a closely-guarded secret. 
  • Some Australian jails have banned Vegemite, as the yeast within it could be extracted to produce alcohol.
  • Vegemite gained momentous popularity after its health benefits were realized. 
  • In 1984, Vegemite became the first product to be electronically scanned at a till in a Woolworths store in Australia, and this pot of Vegemite is still owned by Vegemite. 

Summary

In short, Vegemite is a dark brown spread that has a bitter, salty flavor. It was first created as a substitute for British Marmite during the First World War, and has been popular all across the country ever since. Outside of Australia, it is often difficult to get your hands on Vegemite, especially if you are in the USA. But, if you visit World food markets and Australian-specific stores, you should be able to get your hands on this treat. 

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Written by Brian N

Brian has been an influencer in the food and beverage industry for over 20 years. He not only loves to eat and drink at restaurants on a regular basis, he also knows the business inside and out.