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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?
Key Organisations
Fred Walker & Company Pty Ltd : R&D, manufacture

J Walter Thomson Advertising Agency : advertising campaigns
Key People
Cyril Percy Callister : developed the process
Fred Walker : instigated the research

Further Reading
Making it: innovation and success in Australia's industries
R Renew
Powerhouse Publishing, Sydney, 1993, p 43.

Vegemite Rules
Alan Sipole's Vegemite Central
How to make a Vegemite milkshake
The Vegemite Dance

Questions & Activities

Powerhouse Museum Objects
Vegemite Jar

Early magazine ads like this one promoted Vegemite?s nutritional value. Courtesy Kraft Foods Ltd.
The first Vegemite jars looked like this. Courtesy Kraft Foods Ltd.
The words to the Happy Little Vegemite song. Do you know them? Courtesy Kraft Foods Ltd.
The discovery that vitamins were needed daily quickly made it onto the packaging. Powerhouse Museum. Photo Sue Townsend. Kind permission Kraft Foods Ltd.
Vegemite made a name for itself with the 'Happy Little Vegemites' jingle on radio in 1954. Courtesy Kraft Foods Ltd
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Vegemite made a name for itself with the 'Happy Little Vegemites' jingle on radio in 1954. Courtesy Kraft Foods LtdTranscript

ATSE Powerhouse Museum