19 February 2011

My First Vegemite: Taste testing the 50 per cent less sodium kids version (18 Feb 2011)

Adults prefer the Aussie original

Thanks to Sarah Kempson from Royce for contacting me to sample the newly released kids version of Vegemite known as My First Vegemite ($3.89 RRP). I organised a blind taste test with adults (as kids weren't readily available) to see what they thought and everyone unanimously preferred the original version and could fairly easily tell which one was the kids version by its slightly less salty taste and more noticeable glossy surface. Some even thought it left a weird chemical taste in their mouth but I didn't really notice this. It's interesting but no surprise to see how most of the online media releases from the Herald Sun, The Age, Daily Telegraph, Yahoo News, Brisbane Times, On Food and The Australian say pretty much the same thing since they all must be regurgitating the same story and even though they all mention the 50 per cent less sodium none of them mention the increase in sugar which I've noticed simply by looking at the nutrition information on the jars. A more independent review by Scoop Nutrition includes a video of the Sunrise interview with Kochie who seems to think you shouldn't change it, although I can't tell if he's just being a bit tongue-in-cheek and sarcastic. The original Vegemite contains 2.2g sugar per 100g while My First Vegemite contains 4.7g sugar per 100g — that's more than a 200% increase and hence the 932kJ per 100g as opposed to 798kJ in the original. Some taste testers noticed it did taste a bit sweeter which I agree and I'm thinking perhaps this is what will make it more palatable to kids.

Having lower salt is a step in the right direction, plus I guess adding Vitamin B6, B12 and Iron (Ferric Phyrophosphate), but not at the expense of sugar going up. Perhaps this is a result of the inclusion of glycerine, which apparently can be used as a sugar substitute, and isn't in the original Vegemite ingredients. Nevertheless I've loved eating Vegemite as a kid and have fond memories of having it with heaps of butter between Vita-Weat crackers and squeezing them together to make imaginary worms — I'm sure I was eating more than the 2.5g serving size they recommend these days for kids. Today Vegemite remains a staple pantry item in my household which I love on toast with butter and a side of scrambled eggs. My mum used to and probably still puts a bit on her steak for dinner — crazy hey! Whether My First Vegemite will take off as a substitute for those looking for a similar taste with less salt or as an introduction to kids (or even adults) that don't like the original, waits to be seen. I've never tried the iSnack 2.0 come Cheesybite but one can't ignore the suspicion that the new My First Vegemite is a bit of a brainwashing strategy to get kids hooked on the taste which will continue through to adulthood — it worked on me although I started out with the hardcore stuff.

Nutrition information at a glance (per 100g):
Sodium: Vegemite 3450mg vs My First Vegemite 1720mg (50%)
Energy: Vegemite 798kJ vs My First Vegemite 932kJ (117%)
Sugars: Vegemite 2.2g vs My First Vegemite 4.7g (213%)

PROS: Contains less salt, Includes Vitamin B6, B12 and Iron
CONS: Contains more sugar, If you love the original Vegemite then you probably won't like the kids promoted version, An Aussie acquired taste for many
MUST TRY: Taste testing session for kids

Packaging: Vegemite and My First Vegemite — the distinctive orange lid reminded me of a vitamin supplement jar like Vitamin C tablets

Ingredients: Vegemite and My First Vegemite

Visual: Vegemite and My First Vegemite — new product has a noticeably more glossy surface

Vegemite and My First Vegemite on toast — oops I think I put a bit too much of the My First Vegemite

Nutrition Information: Vegemite

Nutrition Information: My First Vegemite

My First Vegemite adds B6, B12 and Iron with 50% less sodium. The kids on the jar look pretty happy but they're missing the signature smiles of Vegemite over their faces I think — and now little Johnny has girls germs!

Blind taste test

Option A: Vegemite on JATZ crackers

Option B: My First Vegemite on JATZ crackers

Blind taste test result
Can you taste a difference between A and B: 100% Yes
Which taste sample do you prefer: A
Do you think A or B or My First Vegemite: B


thanh7580 said...

Great review Simon. Nice pick up on the extra sugar, can't believe none of the papers mentioned it. That extra increase in calories surely can't be good for Aussie kids who are already way too fat.

I haven't tried My First Vegemite but I doubt I'll like it as I hate normal vegemite already. It really is an acquired taste.

Do you like the My First Vegemite?

thang @ noodlies said...

Great review... felt like it was a lab experiment! I'm too much of a black or white person and reckon they didn't need this one.

But then again, I've always like vegemite.

Suse said...

Greatful for your review as I didn't know this product was out.

I'm perplexed why it's been developed though, as a kid I loved vegemite, still do, and most kids in my class/year did too. If they didn't they had other things on their sandwiches for lunch, no big deal. No doubt just a marketing idea to get more of those younger ones who don't like the original vegemite.

sara @ Belly Rumbles said...

Nothing like an American company to come up with something we truly don't need just to make vegemite loving parents feel they are buying a better "kid friendly" version for their offspring.

It will either be a nice little cash cow for American giant Kraft or the product will go way of the dodo.

Anonymous said...

On my first trip to Australia, 3 years ago, I bought a small jar of Vegemite. I tried a bit on toast but didn't like it. I think I will give this new version a go, it might be easier on foreign palates.

Emma Stirling said...

Hi Simon

Thanks so much for mentioning our Scoop Nutrition review and for your comments on our post. I've left a link to your post in our comments section.
A note about the increased sugar content. As you raised this is higher than original: Sugars: Vegemite 2.2g vs My First Vegemite 4.7g (213%) per 100g. From a dietitians perspective this is not a great concern. 1 teaspoon of sugar is around 5g, so the product has increased by only 1/2 teaspoon of sugar per 100g. When you break this down to a serve size of 2.5g it provides less than 1g of sugar to a child’s diet. No biggy at all, and far better to focus on sodium from a public health perspective. Emma Stirling Accredited Practising Dietitian

Anonymous said...

If it aint broke, don't fix it..!
Looks like another marketing gimmick to me...

Corinne @ Gourmantic said...

In other words, take an iconic product that Australian generations have grown up with, lace it with sugar, and rebrand it for today's younger generation to make it more 'palatable'. Why mess with the original?

Simon Food Favourites said...

hi thanh, i didn't mind My First Vegemite but i tended to prefer the saltier original version.

hi thang, i'll be curious to see how the sales go for it but i'm suspecting most people who love the original won't change.

hi suse, i guess Vegemite will always be wanting to maximise their sales but wanting everyone to buy their products.

hi sara, i guess time will tell if it's just another dodo product :-)

hi lateraleating, i'm suspecting it might be more palatable for some people but i'm sure there'll always be those that will never like it.

hi emma, thanks for the extra details. i guess i wonder if they'll ever decide to create a product that has less sodium and less sugar. but then it wouldn't really be vegemite :-)

hi anonymous, i'm sure there's some truth to your suspicions.

hi corinne, i think i'll always prefer the original :-)

Anonymous said...

i don't think the sugar is worth worrying about as a serving size is 5g not 100 - do the math. My kids hate vegemite. I love it and thought it essential seeing as the average aussie kid is now iodine defficient. That may be the most important nutrient in vegemite now since kids eat so much packet cereal which has b vitamins added.

Simon Leong said...

hi Anonymous, i still prefer the original vegemite myself in terms of taste. i guess i grew up on the stuff so hard to prefer anything else especially with a nice soft boiled egg :-)

Anonymous said...

Not Australian - Time to start buying Ozemite and what is with the Halal/Kosher labelling - political correctness gone mad.

Simon Leong said...

hi anonymous, haven't heard of ozemite before but looks like it's coming back in 2012 http://www.dicksmithfoods.com.au/product-range/ozemite

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