There is nothing more Australian than waking up on Australia Day to a hot piece of toast smeared with lashings of butter and Vegemite.
Men at Work sung about a vegemite sandwich in their famous hit song “Down Under” and John Williamson sang that there was nothing more true blue, “than standin’ by your mate when he’s in a fight. Or just Vegemite.”
The news that Vegemite is set to return to Australian ownership is a great way to kick off 2017.
Dairy company Bega recently announced that it would buy most of Mondelez International’s Australia and New Zealand grocery and cheese business.
The deal will see Bega take over Mondelez’s Port Melbourne factory, where 300,000 jars are produced daily.
Vegemite has been a part of Australia’s history for as long as some of us can remember.
Australia’s favourite spread was developed in Melbourne from leftover Brewer’s Yeast with a variety of vegetable and spice additives, by Cyril Percy Callister in 1922.
Originally Vegemite was promoted as a healthy food for children during World War II.
The advertising emphasised its medicinal value: “Vegemite fights with the men up north! If you are one of those who don’t need Vegemite medicinally, then thousands of invalids are asking you to deny yourself of it for the time being.”
At the same time, Vegemite was promoted as essential for “infant welfare” in magazines with advertisements promoting the importance of the B complex vitamins to health.
Vegemite soon rose in popularity by the marketing campaign written by J. Walter Thompson advertising in 1954 with groups of smiling, healthy children singing a catchy jingle titled, “We’re happy little Vegemites”.
The advertising campaign appeared on television in 1956 and was later remastered in 1980.
“Today is a historic day for Bega Cheese,” executive chairman Barry Irvin said.
“This is an exciting evolution for the company, these iconic brands alongside the Bega brand are strong building blocks to enable Bega Cheese to become a great consumer goods business.”
“We’re really proud of the Bega brand, we think there’s so many opportunities about how we might market and build two iconic Australian brands in Bega Cheese and Vegemite,” he added.
Bega is acquiring salad dressings and other products such as Parmesan cheese, but it does not include Kraft’s Philadelphia cheese business.
By Jewell DRURY