In 1922 the struggling Fred Walker Company hired a chemist, Dr. Cyril P. Callister, to develop a food spread made from readily available leftover brewer’s yeast extract, a natural source of Vitamin B. In a stroke of marketing genius, the company ran a nation-wide competition asking the Australian public to name the spread. Fred Walker’s daughter chose the name Vegemite out of hundreds of entries and the product hit the shelves in 1923.
In direct competition to Marmite, an already popular British spread, Vegemite’s name was changed to Parwill in 1928 and its new slogan, a subtle dig at the British brand became “if Marmite, then Parwill”. This strategy didn’t go well and it took 14 years and the decision to revert to the original name for Vegemite to gain a foothold in Australia and become a household name.
In 1939 the British Medical Association endorsed Vegemite for its healthy properties and, during the Second World War, Australian armed forces ordered so much Vegemite that rationing was imposed at home to meet demand from the troops. The absence of Marmite exported from Britain during this time meant Vegemite had a hold on the Australian market and, in 1954, Happy Little Vegemites started singing the recognisable jingle
Happy 95th birthday!! (Heron Flyer, September 2018)