An article in Adelaide’s daily newspaper, the Advertiser, March 18, 2014 by Lifestyle Editor Jessica Leo aroused my interest.
There has been three years of legal wrangling between Aussie, or should I say OzE, icon, the hugely successful philanthropic millionaire Dick Smith, and little known Adelaide entrepreneur and developer of Aussiemite, South Australia’s answer to Vegemite, Roger Ramsey.
“Approximately one year after I announced the name, ‘OzEmite’, Roger Ramsey changed the name of his product from Dinky Di-Nemite to AussieMite, in what I believe was an attempt to misappropriate the reputation in my product and confuse consumers. The Federal Court will be asked to prevent this from happening,” Smith said.
Dick Smith registered the Trade Mark name “OzEmite” in 1999 but it took him until 2012 to finally develop his product and to bring it to market.
On the other hand, Roger Ramsey started selling his yeast extract product under the name Dinky Di-Nemite in May 2000, before successfully registering the name Aussiemite in 2001. The Trade Mark was accepted in 2006, in the absence of a rival product.
A brief history of yeast extracts.
The product that was to become Marmite was invented in the late 19th century when German scientist Justus von Liebig discovered that brewer’s yeast could be concentrated, bottled and eaten. In 1902 the Marmite Food Extract Company was formed in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, England by the Gilmour family, with Marmite as its main product and Burton as the site of the first factory. The product took its name from the “marmite” (French: [maʁmit]), a French term for a large, covered earthenware or metal cooking pot. The labels of the UK product still carry the image of a marmite. The by-product yeast needed for the paste was supplied by Bass Brewery. By 1907, the product had become successful enough to warrant construction of a second factory at Camberwell Green in London.
The product’s popularity prompted the Sanitarium Health Food Company to obtain sole rights to distribute the product in New Zealand and Australia in 1908. They later began manufacturing Marmite under licence in Christchurch, albeit using a modified version of the original recipe, most notable for its inclusion of sugar and caramel. Common ingredients are also slightly different quantities from the British version; the New Zealand version has high levels of potassium, for example. New Zealand Marmite is described as having a “weaker” or “less tangy” flavour than the British version. It is distributed throughout Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.
During World War I British troops were issued with Marmite as part of their rations. Marmite was used to treat malnutrition in Suriya-Mal workers during the 1934–5 malaria epidemic in Sri Lanka. Housewives were encouraged to spread Marmite thinly and to “use it sparingly just now” because of limited rations of the product.
In 1990, Marmite Limited – which had become a subsidiary of Bovril Limited – was bought by CPC International Inc, which changed its name to Best Foods Inc in 1998. Best Foods Inc subsequently merged with Unilever in 2000, and Marmite is now a trademark owned by Unilever.
Kraft’s Vegemite, developed by Victorian Cyril Callister in 1923 has been Australia’s hugely successful yeast extract spread, and the reason for the wide community acceptance of these products. Indeed Australians’ have an ‘addiction’ to Vegemite that puzzles our American friends. Most American’s can’t stand the flavour. But perhaps this will change with a new vigorous addition to the market in Aussiemite, and perhaps Dick Smith’s contender in OzEmite, if he is successful with his legal appeal.
Yeast extract spreads must be truly “Black Gold”, you would think.