Vegemite to be renamed 'Australia.' But why?


"You only need about THIS much Vegemite on your toast," Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd tells world leaders... Just kidding. Rudd is pictured here on March 10, 2011, during a meeting with his Tunisian counterpart Mouldi Kefi in Tunis.


Fethi Belaid

Down Under could almost hear the reaction in the Aussie supermarket aisles: "But WHYYYYYY.....?"

At first glance, a report in the Murdoch Press here appeared to indicate that American food producer Kraft was planning to change the name of Vegemite — an edible Aussie icon — to "Australia."

In the lead-up to Australia Day and to celebrate the Aussie spread’s 89th year, Vegemite will rebrand its jars to become simply “Australia”, featuring a map of Australia in the place of the famous Vegemite red diamond shaped logo.

A breathless check of the Kraft website to verify any pending sacrilegious act yielded no small amount of relief to one particular lifetime Vegemite addict.

The name change would be restricted to a limited edition "collectable," available on the shelves in time for Jan. 26 — Australia's "Independence Day" equivalent.

Many foreigners might reject Vegemite as, at best, an acquired taste or, at worst, an axel-grease-like substance that really should be on the FDA's import hit list.

Delve too far into the method for making it, and more than a few Aussies might agree: the original recipe reportedly involved combining the waste yeast from a beer factory with salt, celery and onion extracts. Mmmm. 

But it is a rare Australian who didn't grow up eating Vegemite for breakfast (on toast, with butter), lunch (on sandwiches, sometimes with cheese or other accoutrement) and often dinner (it actually makes wonderful gravy).

It's said that during World War II Vegemite had to be rationed due to high demand from the military and civilian populations.

The National Museum of Australia describes the level of nostalgia for the stuff:

In the 1950s, Vegemite spoke of Australian vitality and innocence. Today it provides a connection back to seemingly simpler times and is symbolic of the reverence for the ordinary in Australian culture. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd tapped into this when he declared in the 2007 election campaign that he was a "toast and Vegemite sort of guy."

What reaction could Kraft — which acquired the brand in 1935 — expect from Australians to any attempt to meddle with their daily bread? 

"But why!?"

"Don't mess with Texas ... especially when it comes to Vegemite!" 

"Hands off our bitter, brown yeast extract paste."

None of the above, according News.com.au, which instead predicts an Aussie revolt against the American food conglomerate's latest cheap marketing ploy (oh and by the way, we all know down here about the Philip Morris connection):

The last time Kraft tried to rebrand a Vegemite product, a cheesier version of the spread which they called "iSnack 2.0," it lasted only five days on the shelves before it was met with huge public backlash for daring to play with the national brand.

In case Kraft was interested, Down Under had a few marketing suggestions of our own.

"Australia on toast: quite a mouthful."

"Spreading the Aussie spirit."

"Australia in a jar. No, really."

"What's bitter and brownish, and tastes better with butter.... Australia!"

Food for thought. (PS — That's not one of them)