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The Mighty Fight for Vegemite

The Australian snack spread Vegemite, a yeasty brown goop, is one of those taste sensations---like cilantro---that inspires either fierce loyalty or disgust.I know it has a lot of nutritional value, but personally, I can't think of anything less appetizing than "a food paste made from yeast extract...

Vegemite on toast, courtesy Flickr user Stephen Mitchell


The Australian snack spread Vegemite, a yeasty brown goop, is one of those taste sensations--- like cilantro---that inspires either fierce loyalty or disgust.

I know it has a lot of nutritional value, but personally, I can't think of anything less appetizing than "a food paste made from yeast extract." (Well, maybe aspic; I'm with Colin Flynn there.)

So I was bemused to read recent news articles about the " storm of complaints" that erupted from the Australian public when Vegemite's maker, Kraft Foods Australia, announced plans to make a new "cheesy" version of this odd food product. It wasn't necessarily the new product itself that bothered people (although my first reaction was amazement: There IS something less appetizing than yeast paste! Yeast paste mixed with cream cheese!), it was the new product's name: Kraft proposed naming it iSnack 2.0. (Wow, something even less appetizing: Yeast paste mixed with cream cheese and named after an inedible electronic device!)

After polling some 30,000 consumers, Kraft has since settled on a new name: Vegemite Cheesybite, which beat out Smooth, Snackmate, Vegemate, Vegemild and Creamymate. (The company apparently did not consider a few of the more creative names suggested by some online commenters: "Veg-I-Mite-Not," anyone? How about "Vegemort, the snack which cannot be named?")

"We have been overwhelmed by the response from the public; it clearly demonstrated your passion for this brand," Kraft writes on the Vegemite web site. (It almost sounds like they were surprised to realize people liked it, too!)

I know, I know...I really should try the stuff before I knock it. But there's a very similar product called Marmite in England, where I studied abroad in college, and if it didn't have a label I would have sworn it was some sort of industrial glue or solvent.

Have you tried Vegemite (or Marmite)? Did you like it?

Oh, and just for fun:
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About Amanda Bensen

Amanda Bensen is a former assistant editor at Smithsonian and is now a senior editor at the Nature Conservancy.

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