Page last updated at 12:27 GMT, Monday, 15 June 2009 13:27 UK

Makeover plan for Vegemite spread

Vegemite jar, Jan 06
Vegemite inspires strong reactions, being either loved or hated.

The makers of an iconic food spread, Vegemite, have announced they are daring to create a new flavour.

Kraft Foods said the original Vegemite - a dark-coloured, Vitamin-B rich, bitter but apparently addictive yeast extract - will not be changed.

But an extra flavour, mixing the black stuff with cream cheese, will be offered to the market soon.

Kraft Foods says the name of the new flavour is to be decided by a public contest.

Fans of Vegemite spread it on bread, among other things, and sometimes mix it with cheese, salad and peanut butter.

The creamier version, due on store shelves by 5 July, could cause a radical change on breakfast tables across New Zealand and Australia.

Identity crisis?

The product is such an integral part of life in both countries that it is sold in soft tubes in New Zealand to allow for easy packing on camping trips.

It has entered the cultural life of Australia, meriting a mention in the song Down Under by Men at Work.

When stores ran out of stock in Hong Kong, expatriates were so upset that the shortage made headlines in local newspapers.

The phrase "happy little vegemites", to refer to people who are content and replete, is now at risk, initial media coverage has suggested.

Simon Talbot, Kraft Australia's head of corporate affairs, said the decision to make a new product followed surveys of 300,000 Australians and New Zealanders on how they use Vegemite.

The end result is a Vegemite mixed with cream cheese for a smoother, more spreadable consistency.

"It's a milder version, more suited to dipping celery or carrots, easy to spread," Mr Talbot said.

Vegemite was created 87 years ago by Australian chemist Cyril Callister for the Fred Walker Cheese Company in Melbourne, which wanted a Vitamin B-rich spread that could compete with Britain's popular Marmite.

As for the name of the new product, "It's in the hands of the Australian and New Zealand people," Mr Talbot said.

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