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Vegemite (pronounced "VEH-gee-mite", SAMPA: ["vEgimait]) is the registered brand name for a dark brown -- almost black -- salty food paste mainly used as a spread on sandwiches and toast, though occasionally used in cooking. It is based on a yeast extract. Invented in 1923 by Australian Fred Walker and Dr. Cyril P. Callister, it is now produced by Kraft Foods, a multinational company owned by the Phillip Morris group. Its taste and manufacture are similar to the British Marmite, and indeed the product was for a short time known as "Parwill" as a rather unfunny and unsuccessful pun on Marmite's name (as in the sentence: "Ma might not like the taste, but I'm sure Pa will"). Vegemite's current name was picked at random out of a hat of other possible choices by Fred Walker's daughter, Sheilah.

Whilst highly popular in Australia and New Zealand, it has never been successfully marketed elsewhere; although available in Britain it is unable to contend with the strong brand image, and ubiquity of Marmite. It is notorious for the dislike it generates amongst some foreigners who try it, particularly Americans. Those unfamiliar with it are recommended to try a small amount spread on toast, however, it appears to be very much an acquired taste. Note that Vegemite is not something liked by all Australians -- many find it quite loathsome and nauseating. The spread is extremely strongly flavoured, and a little goes a long way. Some people spreading vegemite as thickly as jam or butter might get a nasty surprise when they bit into the resulting product.

Vegemite's rise to popularity was helped by highly successful marketing campaigns in the 1940s, using groups of smiling, attractive healthy children singing a catchy jingle entitled "We're happy little vegemites". Indeed, many Australians still use the phrase "happy little vegemite" to describe such children. Re-edited versions of the original advertisements and jingle continue to be used today for their appeal to patriotic nostalgia.

Many non-Australians became aware of Vegemite's existence as it was mentioned in the lyrics of "Down Under", a song that became a worldwide hit for the Australian pop group Men At Work in the early 1980s and used as an "unofficial anthem" when Australia won the America's Cup.

Products similar to Vegemite

Mightymite Marmite

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