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." (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!)

Vegemite on toast, courtesy Flickr user Stephen Mitchell

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?

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