What's behind Vegemite’s success story?

HAPPY LITTLE VEGEMITE: One-year-old Isabella MacMahon of Casino relishes her breakfast.
HAPPY LITTLE VEGEMITE: One-year-old Isabella MacMahon of Casino relishes her breakfast. Cathy Adams

IF YOU lined up all of the pieces of toast Vegemite is spread on in kitchens around Australia each year, they would wrap around the world more than three and a half times.

Yesterday, Vegemite celebrated its 90th birthday and, with Australians being happy little Vegemites since 1923, what is it that keeps us buying the black spread almost 100 years on?

According to senior lecturer in consumer research at Southern Cross University's School of Business Simon Pervan, it might not be the taste that keeps us coming back to the Australian icon, but the feeling of how things once were that comes rushing back when the salty spread hits our tongues.

"The main benefit that Vegemite has is the nostalgia reference, and when a brand acquires this it gains a really deep meaning with consumers," Mr Pervan said.

He said that most of us associate Vegemite with experiences we were involved in when we were younger and for this reason we think of the product fondly and are compelled to buy it.

"The memories we associate with Vegemite or any nostalgic brand could be very simple like eating it for breakfast, or more complex like remembering taking it on your sandwich to your first day at school," Mr Pervan said.

"When you develop those associations with a brand they become quite deep and profound and you keep coming back."

However, Mr Pevan said another thing Vegemite had going for it - it's "homeland brand" category.

And, he added, the fact the product is no longer Australian-owned has no influence on its ability to be truly Australian.

"The homeland brand is something that gives you security when you're overseas; you're always looking for a jar of Vegemite in the UK as it reminds us of positive times in our homeland."

"It's not that the product tastes better or looks better than any other; it's just tied up with reference points in our lives and embodies everything about being Australian."

Mr Pervan offered a final explanation for our love of Vegemite: it might have taken the place of religion.

"As we become less religious and we don't have those reference points in our lives like going to church, so brands that have been there for a long time provide a sense of security and an important role in anchoring us that perhaps earlier generations experienced at church."

Topics:  food vegemite

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