Tuesday, September 29, 2009

iSnack 2.0...or shouldn't that be Cheesypuke?

Vegemite has been a staple in the Australian pantry since the 1920s. It's an icon, an institution for those of us Down Under. It's one of these spreads you either love or loathe; made from a yeast extract it's very savoury and salty, and the colour of old sump oil. Americans and Canadians in particular have a hard time with it, as there is no sweetness about it. But if you're someone who doesn't always want a sweet spread like marmalade or maple syrup on your morning toast, Vegemite is your best friend.

I grew up on Vegemite and like many Australians was very concerned when US company Kraft bought the brand several years ago. Would Kraft change the formula to make it more palatable for Americans and Canadians and increase the brand's market share there? Thankfully they didn't and Vegemite stayed intact.

Until now. There's a new snack spread out under the Vegemite label. Would you believe it's called iSnack 2.0 - which is dreadful enough in itself - and is a blend of Vegemite and cream cheese. The name iSnack 2.0 (which will undoubtedly, in the way of the interweb, be obselete by next Tuesday I imagine... maybe Thursday) was chosen in a competition which attracted more than 35,000 entries. I did consider entering myself, with the suggested name being Cheesypuke, but decided on reflection it probably wouldn't get past the first round of judging. It seems I'm not alone in thinking the name was daft if today's The Australian is anything to go by. I do like the marketeer's view that the name was so bad it would see the product off the shelf in six months' time :-)). Don't change the name, folks!

Personally I can't think of anything more revolting in the world of snack food. Well, yes I can ( let's not get too literal here). For example I think it's Kraft who has a spread that blends ketchup and mustard, and that's pretty stomach turning for me as I can't get within a metre of ketchup without wanting to throw up from the smell. And then there's some seriously weird snackfood from Asia which includes things like cockroaches cooked on a hotplate but it's too soon after breakfast to think about that.

Digressions aside, mixing Vegemite and cream cheese is pretty sickly. Vegemite goes well with butter. Very well indeed. But butter isn't cream cheese. Vegemite can be palatable with a little bit of cheddar, too. But that isn't cream cheese either.

On t'other hand, softening Vegemite's remarkable taste with something innocuous may have given Kraft a way to increase Vegemite's market share in North America. Which I suspect was the ultimate desire behind this concoction. Just don't mess with the original, Kraft. Or the bunyips will get you.

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