A mitey tale: the story of the inventor of Vegemite


As Vegemite celebrates a momentous 100 years, this book takes a look back at the man who invented the iconic Australian spread.


Few Australian know the name Cyril Callister, but many of us would consider his invention a national icon. When it was first produced in 1923, Vegemite wasn’t embraced by the public, yet today, more than 22 million jars of Vegemite are sold every year.

Its distinctive tangy flavour, both overwhelmingly salty and yeasty, divides tasters into one of two extreme camps: those who love it or those who hate it. The rules about the proper way to consume it often sparks passionate debate, while its uses have spread beyond those of a mere condiment, becoming additions to soup, bakes and even ice cream.



In writing Vegemite: The true story of the man who invented an Australian icon (2023), Cyril’s grandson Jamie Callister initially set out to learn more about the grandfather he’d never met. He spent seven years researching his previously unknown and untold story. The way Cyril transformed Vegemite into the flavour of the nation speaks to his immense determination and innovation.

Jamie writes: “…with the exception of the odd game of lacrosse, his career was his hobby. It may also have been his life, too.”

Cyril was a chemist living in Chute, west of Ballarat, with his wife and three young children when Melbourne’s Fred Walker & Co hired him to create an alternative to Marmite, the popular yeast spread from the UK. He dedicated himself fiercely to the task of getting the recipe right – often to the detriment of his relationships. While it took him a year to perfect the blend, it took another 15 years for the salty black paste to become a household staple.



Spanning the Gold Rush, the Depression and two world wars, the book also offers a fascinating look into modern Australian history. This revised edition features a collection of photographs, a new introduction and an epilogue that shares the story of how Vegemite returned to Australian hands when it was bought by Bega in 2017.

“It’s not just my story, I feel like it’s our story,” Jamie said in a recent interview with the BBC. “We’ve all got ownership of Vegemite in some way, it’s who we are. It’s in our DNA.”

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