How Vegemite becoming Australian again confused people

Angus Kidman 24 January 2017

VegemiteVitality738

It was American for a lot longer than most of us realised.

The announcement last week that Bega Cheese was buying the Vegemite brand from US food giant Mondelez for a nifty $460 million made headlines across Australia. The key theme? How fabulous it was that this iconic Australian brand would once again be owned locally. Just in time for Australia Day, even!

Apparently, Vegemite is found in 90% of Australian pantries. I suspect many happy little Vegemite consumers hadn't actually registered that it was overseas-owned. The front of the jar in your pantry proclaims "Proudly made in Australia since 1923", and the jar names the manufacturer as Mondelez Foods Australia. You'd have to do quite a bit of digging to realise Mondelez is a global operation which owns the Kraft name, and most of us would just get distracted and make more toast instead.

Even amongst Australians who did realise that Vegemite wasn't locally owned, I suspect many people thought that it had been sold offshore comparatively recently, lumping it in the same bucket as other Australian favourites like Arnott's (which was sold to Campbell's in 1997) or Mambo (sold to Saban in 2015). But Vegemite isn't actually part of that narrative. It has been US owned for the majority of its history. It's not returning to being Australian; it's becoming fully Australian for the first time (leaving aside any offshore holders of Bega Cheese shares).

This is still something to celebrate, undoubtedly. We're big fans of Australian brands at finder.com.au, a point we're underscoring with our True Blue sale which launches tomorrow.

So as Vegemite transitions into Aussie ownership, here's the one obvious piece of advice: don't go messing with the recipe. As Arnott's learned last year with the Shapes debacle, we don't like it when our icons change.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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