Vegemite is a staple in many Australian kitchen cupboards, just like our beloved Marmite here in the UK. It's delicious (highly debatable) yeasty taste goes well spread atop freshly buttered slices of toast, and truly helps many Aussies and brits alike slip and slide into their busy days.
Not content with being every Aussie's favorite spread (and having something of a cult following outside the land down under), the yeasty boys have only gone and made a super fancy premium version of their spread.
Bega, the manufacturers of the iconic spread have released Vegemite Blend 17 this week, raising questions about whether the brand had abandoned its humble roots in favor of a more affluent demographic.
The new variety is quoted as having a bolder, richer flavor and is sold in achingly artisanal packaging that includes an (unnecessary) cardboard box, a gold-coloured lid and a price tag more than double that of a traditional jar, coming in at 7 Australian dollars, or nearly $5.50 (£4.16) for a 150g jar.
It's a limited edition, with 450,000 jars going on sale. This is only the second time that Vegemite has changed its recipe since its genesis in 1923. The last recipe change was in 2009 when the formula was adapted to make it easier to spread without butter.
When asked what happened to blends one through 16 of the spread, Vegemite’s marketing director, Ben Hill, explained that “The name ‘Blend 17’ simply refers to the year 2017 we have released it in.”
Several people are confused by the move Vegemite has pulled. Emily Naismith, an Australian writer and co-host of the food podcast Ingredipedia, said that she, like many Australians, had eaten the salty, savory spread her entire life and she believed Vegemite to be a great equalizer through all of Australia, adding “I don’t know who they’re trying to service — which type of market.”
Anthony Agius, a Melbourne resident who says he has eaten Vegemite for 32 years, purchased the new product out of curiosity, saying “I eat a lot of Vegemite, so I figured, why not try a new flavor? Maybe I’d like it more than original Vegemite.” He concluded he couldn't distinguish the new blend from the original that easily.
"I really couldn’t tell the difference,” he said. “It’s maybe a bit more salty if I think about it, but that’s it.” It's also been quoted to have a bitter aftertaste not evident in vanilla Vegemite. Neat, it’s overbearing, but spread on toast it isn’t noticed.
Ben Hill justifies the release of the fancy spread saying “Some people spread their Vegemite on lightly; some lather it on, I particularly say for those who lather it on to try this special edition. The higher intensity of the Vegemite taste means they can use less and savor the jar for longer."
Mr Hill was also asked whether the new product is a cynical short-lived marketing ploy to draw attention and stoke lighthearted controversy he simply asked Australians to "embrace the taste." Tempting but I'll stick to my regular butter on toast. Hated the stuff as a kid, hate it now.