Episode #3: “We Are Happy Little Vegemites” — An Australian Icon

Jar of Vegemite

Vegemite vs Marmite: the Great Debate



The Australian Icon

Ever tried Vegemite!

To the uninitiated, Vegemite is this’ black crap’ that Australian’s s put on their toast (and anything else that comes into range).


To non-Australians, it is an acquired taste not to be tangled with, except if you are British.  They have a similar product called Marmite.


Late last year, Vegemite celebrated its 100th birthday.  This reignited the great debate: which is better, Vegemite or Marmite?
Part of its 100-year advertising slogan is “Tastes like Australia”.   Vegemite is an Australian icon, up there with the kangaroo, which Australians also eat. (It seems like Aussies love eating their country icons!)


I recently had a conversation with an Aussie die-hard who told me,
“If anyone didn’t like Vegemite, well, they weren’t Australian.”
Pretty harsh words, I thought, but it is a sentiment shared by many Australians.


Vegemite vs Marmite?

Vegemite is a sticky, dark brown paste with a distinctive, salty, powerful flavor and heady aroma. It has a more intense salty and bitter taste than Marmite.


Both products are made from yeast, the waste products of the brewing industry, to be precise. I am sure its origin is one of the reasons why people form an immediate dislike of Vegemite (or Marmite) without even trying them.


Vegemite contains extracts from wheat and barley. Marmite has additional rye extracts.  Vegemite also contains some vegetable juice, which is not in Marmite.


Although it contains higher amounts of vitamins B1, B2, and B9 and is considered one of the richest sources of vitamins, it lacks vitamin B12.


The amazing history of Vegemite

Vegemite was first made by chemist Cyril Callister to address the shortage of Marmite imported from England into Australia during the war.


The first jars of Vegemite hit the shelves in 1923.  This followed a nationwide contest to come up with a name to replace the original name for the product — ‘Pure Vegetable Extract’ (which was not particularly sexy!).


The 50-pound prize money was never claimed because the winning entrant had no name.


Despite the name change, Vegemite was slow to take off and compete with the market leader, Marmite. Five years after its introduction, the name changed to ‘Parwill” on the back of the slogan


“If Marmite … Parwill.”


It was not until 14 years later, a name change back to Vegemite, and an endorsement from the British Medical Association endorsed Vegemite, that it started to take off.


By 1942, Vegemite had become a brand name and staple food item in nearly all households in Australia.


The demand for Vegemite during World War II was so great that the product had to be rationed to ensure supply for the Allied forces. This only increased the desire for Vegemite — we all want something we can’t have.


Today, 98% of Vegemite sales are still in Australia.


It has its own merchandise, a street named after it, and if you live in Australia, that toe-tapping jingle ‘Happy Little Vegemites’ is up there with ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and ‘Up There Cazaly’ as national anthems.


The Great Debate — it is an origin thing!

Back to the debate over which of these is the better. Competitions, comparative studies, and just plain old comments about which is better all seem to point to Vegemite as the superior product — unless you are British.


Australia’s premier consumer guide, Choice, ran a 2020 comparison of 9 ’mite’ products.  This included Vegemite original, Salt-reduced and Gluten-free Vegemite, and Marmite. The panel of 31 participants put Vegemite Reduced Salt on top with a score of 82%. Vegemite Original came in at 71%, followed by AussieMite, a rip-off of the rip-off, which tied with Vegemite Gluten Free at 55%.


The Future of Vegemite

UK beer company Camden has used Marmite in an ale, while deodorant brand Lynx used it in their popular Africa spray.


As for Vegemite, it is used on toast, bread rolls, eggs, avocados, sandwiches, and even pizza, you name it!


The Australian spread has been a featured flavor in everything from Smith’s crisps to Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate and even the iconic chocolate biscuits Tim Tams.


Australia’s favorite sweet biscuit married to their favorite savory item? ……It will Aussies everywhere wetting their pants!
The Aussies have done a pretty good job of ripping off British originals and improving them. Vegemite is no exception.


Vegemite is so ingrained in Australian culture that it is hard to imagine it could ever be absent from Aussie supermarkets and kitchens. Like everything, it has had to adapt to the changing world, and you can now get gluten-free and salt-reduced Vegemite.
Sacré bleu!


The Final Word.

For me, you can’t beat the original.


The trick with Vegemite is to put it on thinly until you have acquired the taste. It is not like jam and peanut butter — the more, the better, exactly the opposite. Aussies won’t tell you this because they are delighted to see the reaction of the Vegemite virgin. But don’t be misled.


A slice of toast, butter, and Vegemite teamed up with a hot cup of tea is bliss on a cold morning — just ask my little dogs!


Till next time,



Copyright © Calvin London 2024

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Calvin London

Calvin runs a boutique consulting company. He is an established author of over 50 publications but started this site to explore the lighter side of life and all the curious things it has to offer. He is developing a career as a freelance writer.