In a segment headed, “Kraft’s Dirty Tricks” on A Current Affair, journalist Mike Munro asked a Kraft executive, “why go out and deceptively register OzEmite?”. The executive responded, “we register a number of trademarks”. When asked by Mike Munro whether they had registered “Yankymite” or “Americanmite”, he received no answer.
This was just the beginning of our problems. Vegemite, invented by Australian Cyril Callister in the 1920s, was made from spent brewers’ yeast. When I contacted the major breweries to buy brewers’ yeast to make OzEmite, I was quickly told they all had sales contracts with Kraft.
Meanwhile, the German-owned Aldi introduced a Vegemite copy they called “Brekkymite”, which was made in Brazil. It was obvious to me there was no way we could compete with such a low-wage country.
Thanks to some brilliant Australian food technologists, we have found a way of producing OzEmite without using spent brewers’ yeast that in other countries is normally used as animal feed. We have used purpose-grown yeast based on corn so it’s gluten-free. Yes, the costs are higher, but quality and taste always cost a little more. Also, our OzEmite is not as thick as Vegemite as it is specially formulated to be more spreadable and less is required to experience the taste.
Most importantly, OzEmite is, I believe, closer to the original taste of Vegemite that I remember as a boy in the 1950s. It’s not widely known that Kraft changed the taste due to a shortage of one type of yeast but did not tell Australians of this.
Recently we conducted a taste test. Results showed that 70% of Aussies thought it was “different” but liked our OzEmite as much or more than Vegemite. Our OzEmite does not have an identical taste to the modern Vegemite. If you want that taste, stick to the American Vegemite or buy Aldi’s Brazilian Brekkymite. We have come up with a taste which, I believe, is more similar to the original Vegemite and appealing to the Australian palate.
If Dick Smith Foods gets just 20% of the market with OzEmite we will be delighted because OzEmite is Australian owned and the profits stay here. Recently the Wall Street Journal stated this about Kraft: “Vegemite’s maker is struggling to recruit young Australians to eat the thick, brown, salty spread their parents have always adored”. I don’t believe it’s the taste that’s the main problem. I believe it’s the fact that Aussies now know that Vegemite is not Aussie-owned and that takes away enthusiasm for the product.