Like many Australians, I was amazed to find that Vegemite was American owned – at the time by Kraft and the Phillip Morris Cigarette Company.
I decided it was time we had our own Aussie yeast spread so I came up with the name, OzEmite and announced the proposal on national television. Two weeks later I learned that Kraft had heard of my plans and registered the name “OzEmite” in an attempt to stop me from going ahead.
In a segment headed, “Kraft’s Dirty Tricks” on A Current Affair, journalist Mike Munro asked a Kraft executive, “why go out and deceptively register OzEmite?”. The executive responded, “we register a number of trademarks”. When asked by Mike Munro whether they had registered “Yankymite” or “Americanmite”, he received no answer.
This was just the beginning of our problems. Vegemite, invented by Australian Cyril Callister in the 1920s, was made from spent brewers’ yeast. When I contacted the major breweries to buy brewers’ yeast to make OzEmite, I was quickly told they all had sales contracts with Kraft.
Meanwhile, the German-owned Aldi introduced a Vegemite copy they called “Brekkymite”, which was made in Brazil. It was obvious to me there was no way we could compete with such a low-wage country.
Thanks to some brilliant Australian food technologists, we have found a way of producing OzEmite without using spent brewers’ yeast that in other countries is normally used as animal feed. We have used purpose-grown yeast based on corn so it’s gluten-free. Yes, the costs are higher, but quality and taste always cost a little more. Also, our OzEmite is not as thick as Vegemite as it is specially formulated to be more spreadable and less is required to experience the taste.
Most importantly, OzEmite is, I believe, closer to the original taste of Vegemite that I remember as a boy in the 1950s. It’s not widely known that Kraft changed the taste due to a shortage of one type of yeast but did not tell Australians of this.
Recently we conducted a taste test. Results showed that 70% of Aussies thought it was “different” but liked our OzEmite as much or more than Vegemite. Our OzEmite does not have an identical taste to the modern Vegemite. If you want that taste, stick to the American Vegemite or buy Aldi’s Brazilian Brekkymite. We have come up with a taste which, I believe, is more similar to the original Vegemite and appealing to the Australian palate.
If Dick Smith Foods gets just 20% of the market with OzEmite we will be delighted because OzEmite is Australian owned and the profits stay here. Recently the Wall Street Journal stated this about Kraft: “Vegemite’s maker is struggling to recruit young Australians to eat the thick, brown, salty spread their parents have always adored”. I don’t believe it’s the taste that’s the main problem. I believe it’s the fact that Aussies now know that Vegemite is not Aussie-owned and that takes away enthusiasm for the product.
Should we give in and change our OzEmite name to “DickiMite”?
On A Current Affair (Tuesday 4th March) there was a segment on the situation with OzEmite where Roger Ramsey is claiming that we have to pull our OzEmite off supermarket shelves as he has won a recent trade mark case against us.
Many will probably remember the story where Roger Ramsey originally came up with a product called “Dinky-Di-Nemite” (a great name, we think) but then decided to change his product’s name to “Aussiemite” - one very similar to our announced brand. When he told AusBuy of this they told him this wasn’t on because everyone knew that the result could be misleading. As we had announced our OzEmite brand more than two years before – below is the Affidavit:
More importantly, these are the dates that we applied for and registered our OzEmite and the dates Roger Ramsey applied for and registered his Aussiemite.
Applied for NSW Business name: 23/6/99
Trade Mark application date: 28/10/99
Date of Acceptance: 7/12/01
Entered on Register: 23/10/03
Trade Mark application date: 7/5/01
Date of Acceptance: 23/9/03
Entered on Register: 8/11/06
It is quite clear from this that we were years ahead of Roger Ramsey.
It took many years for us, working with Aussie companies, to perfect the OzEmite taste. Because of this, Roger Ramsey has claimed that there is a period of three years where we did not sell the product so our trade mark should be struck off. We didn’t want to waste money on lawyers (which would otherwise go to charity in our case) so we did not fight the case and Roger now claims he has won.
Do our supporters believe we should go to Appeal, which could be very expensive and would result in less money to charity? Or do you believe we should give in and change our OzEmite name to “DickiMite”???
You can provide us with your comments on this issue on our Facebook page.
I look forward to everyone’s suggestions on this.
Update 18th March 2014
Thanks for your support and comments. We have decided to appeal the decision of the Registrar of Trade Marks to remove the OzEmite registration. Below is the press release announcing the decision:
An appeal against an administrative decision of the Registrar of Trade Marks to remove the Trade Mark registration of Dick Smith’s OzEmite has today been filed in the Federal Court of Australia. The application for removal had been made by Roger Ramsey as the proprietor of the AussieMite Trade Mark.
The Appeal will be a rehearing of the removal application in which the Federal Court will consider extensive evidence in support of the continuing use of OzEmite.
The OzEmite Trade Mark will remain registered and the popular OzEmite product will remain on supermarket shelves until the Appeal has been determined.
Dick Smith said today:
“Since October 1999 I have been devoting considerable cost and effort to develop the OzEmite product. Approximately one year after I announced the name, “OzEmite”, Roger Ramsey changed the name of his product from Dinky Di-Nemite to AussieMite, in what I believe was an attempt to misappropriate the reputation in my product and confuse consumers. The Federal Court will be asked to prevent this from happening”.
Mark O’Brien of Johnson, Winter & Slattery, Lawyer for Dick Smith, said he expected the case to be heard later this year.
Dick Smith Foods will donate $1 million to charity in 2014 and the supporters of Dick Smith Foods will be the sole decision makers as to where the money will go.
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