Vegemite Blend 17, is sold in achingly artisanal packaging that includes an unnecessary cardboard box, a gold-color lid and a price tag more than double that of a traditional jar, coming in at 7 Australian dollars, or nearly $5.50.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Vegemite, the classic condiment found on breakfast tables throughout Australia for nearly a century, is going posh.
Bega, manufacturer of the iconic — if divisive — yeast-extract spread, released a new and more expensive version of the product this week, raising questions about whether the brand had abandoned its humble roots in favor of a more affluent demographic.
The new variety, Vegemite Blend 17, is sold in achingly artisanal packaging that includes an unnecessary cardboard box, a gold-colored lid and a price tag more than double that of a traditional jar, coming in at 7 Australian dollars, or nearly $5.50.
When asked what happened to blends 1 through 16, Vegemite’s marketing director, Ben Hill, explained: “The name ‘Blend 17’ simply refers to the year 2017 we have released it in.”
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Vegemite has long had an unassailable place in Australian culture. While running successfully for prime minister in 2007, Kevin Rudd called himself a “very simple Vegemite-on-toast man.”
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.
“I feel like Vegemite is the great equalizer through all of Australia,” she said. “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. “I eat a lot of Vegemite, so I figured, Why not try a new flavor? Maybe I’d like it more than original Vegemite.”
Agius said he could not easily distinguish the new blend from the original. “Really couldn’t tell the difference,” he said. “It’s maybe a bit more salty, if I think about it, but that’s it.”
When asked whether the new product may be a cynical, short-lived marketing ploy to draw attention and stoke lighthearted controversy, Hill, the marketing director, simply encouraged Australians to “embrace the taste.” The company, he said, did not plan to reissue the product after its initial run of 450,000 units. But if the new blend proved popular, Hill said, Bega might keep making it.