food spread extracted from yeast cells
The story of Vegemite is a tale of technological innovation and never-say-die promotion.
In 1922 Fred Walker Foods hired Percy Callister to develop a useful food from vitamin-rich used yeast being dumped by breweries. Using enzymes to split open the yeast cells, he extracted the contents and blended them with vegetables and salt into a sticky black paste with a sharp taste. Vegemite hit the market in 1923 and promptly failed to sell.
So in 1928 the company renamed its spread Parwill to compete against the top-selling British import, Marmite (get it? - 'if Marmite then Parwill') but Parwill flopped too.
Walker Foods tried the Vegemite name again and gave it away with Walker cheese products and a couple of cars as prizes before Australians finally fell for it.
In 1939 Vegemite was officially endorsed by the British Medical Association as a source of Vitamin B and was included in Australian Army rations during World War II. Buyers were now assured of the nutritional value of Vegemite, which has been a market leader ever since.
Who Did It?
Fred Walker & Company Pty Ltd : R&D, manufacture
J Walter Thomson Advertising Agency : advertising campaigns
Cyril Percy Callister : developed the process
Fred Walker : instigated the research
Making it: innovation and success in Australia's industries
Powerhouse Publishing, Sydney, 1993, p 43.
Sipole's Vegemite Central
to make a Vegemite milkshake
The Vegemite Dance
Questions & Activities
Powerhouse Museum Objects