All posts tagged: World War II

Vegemite: Advertising and the Making of an Australian Icon

Chocolate-like in appearance but with a flavor like nothing else on earth, the yeast extract spread Vegemite is essentially synonymous with Australia. Hired by the ambitious Fred Walker to create a copy of the British spread, Marmite (which coincidentally has an adorable Twitter feed), food scientist Cyril Callister developed Vegemite in 1923. Based on a mutual interest in developing a processed cheese with a longer shelf life, Walker joined forces with James Kraft, forming the Kraft Walker Cheese Company in 1926, whose Melbourne factory and head offices are pictured below (image 1). High in B vitamins during an historical moment when vitamins themselves were a new scientific phenomenon, Vegemite was from the beginning marketed by the Fred Walker Company as nutritious, particularly for children. For example, a Vegemite advertisement from the 1920s assured consumers that “there is no food richer in vitamins than Vegemite” and a point of sale advertisement from the 1930s emphasized the spread’s nutritional content and the themes of vitality, health, and childhood (image 2). Despite its vitamin content, consumers were initially slow to …

Food History Roundup: 6 Posts on 1950s Convenience Cuisine

Titled, “Beef Fizz and Other Strange Recipes from the ’50s-’60s,” my most recent Zester Daily article was published last week, a short piece dedicated to my fascination with mid-century cuisine. Over the summer, I have indulged my mid-century penchant by picking up dozens of vintage cookbooks, including six more just last night! These cookbooks are mostly from the 1950s and 1960s, but some earlier in the twentieth century (I can’t wait to write about The Sunny Side of Life Book, published by the Kellogg Company in 1934) and some later (like Betty Crocker’s Family Dinners In a Hurry, whose fourteenth printing ran in 1980). It’s a borderline reckless hobby, adding more books to an already large collection of literature, public health texts, and food studies books, but I’m sure it’ll provide inspiration for many a blog post. I’ve already written a bit on convenience food, packaged-food cuisine, my love of Laura Shapiro’s Something from the Oven, and what food and cooking meant mid-century. Here’s a quick roundup in roughly chronologically historical order: 1. Wartime, Memorial Day … & Kraft American Cheese? Focusing on …

Archive Adventures #2: Wartime, Memorial Day … & Kraft American Cheese?

With the tagline, “Hanker No More!” this advertisement from my archive adventures at the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History at Duke University celebrates the return of not only America’s World War II heros, but of Kraft cheese products, like Kraft American cheese, Velveeta, and “Old English” Pasteurized Process Cheese, which were rationed on the home front. Ad copy commiserates with America’s housewives: “For a long time during the war, you couldn’t get an ounce of this mellow, smooth-melting cheese; since then a single package has been ‘a find.’” Now, however, the “cheddar goodness you’ve missed so long” has not only returned to supermarket shelves, but “is plentiful.” Furthermore, while an ounce was once impossible to procure, Kraft American cheese could now be purchased in a five-pound loaf or by the half pound (packaged in blue) if preferred. Such linguistic comparisons of weights and measures reveal some evidence of the food industry’s post-war aim to not only find domestic markets for wartime goods, but to increase consumption more generally. Finally, nearly all of the other advertisements that I collected for Kraft cheeses during the …