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For Australian consumers, Vegemite has a clear, unassailable reputation: The yeast-based spread is simple, basic, and familiar from childhood. There is nothing fancy about it. But that essential image has come under some scrutiny, upon the release of “Blend 17”—an allegedly high-end version of Vegemite that comes packed in a fancy box, with a gold foil wrapper.

The company asserts, with a proverbial straight face, that Blend 17 offers a more intensely flavored version of the conventional spread. For people who love its taste, Blend 17 thus enables them to use less on each piece of toast. Such extended use is probably necessary; the newly introduced version costs approximately twice as much as conventional Vegemite. It also is being touted as a limited run, such that once the 450,000 bottles currently on the market sell out, consumers might not be able to find it again.

But they might not want to anyway. Most reviews on social media indicate that consumers cannot really taste much difference between the original version and Blend 17. Even those who find a difference suggest that it is minimal, calling it “a bit more salty” or suggesting that “spread on toast, it isn’t noticed.” Still, the number of reviews imply that a lot of consumers are trying the new option, figuring “Why not try a new flavor?”

That might be the point of the whole exercise. Vegemite is such a familiar staple that consumers rarely spend much time thinking or talking about it. By creating a limited edition version, the manufacturer can prompt them to pick up an extra bottle, as well as share their reviews on social media. The conversation thus takes on new life, representing an invaluable marketing tactic. Or maybe it really is a different and better product, introduced to reward loyal customers with a product line extension that will appeal to them. Thus far, Vegemite isn’t saying; it is left to consumers to decide.

Discussion Question:

  1. How and why is the manufacturer of Vegemite offering this special, more upscale version of the product?

Source: Adam Baidawi, “Vegemite, the Beloved Australian Spread, Goes Upmarket,” The New York Times, October 11, 2017

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