Have you heard of Dr Cyril P Callister?
Ok maybe you have not heard of the man but if you’re an Aussie you most likely have eaten his creation which was Vegemite all Aussies pretty much like Vegemite. Way back in 1922 the Fred Walker company hired a young chemist to develop a spread from brewer’s yeast,it was labelled “Pure Vegetable Extract” which doesn’t sound as good as Vegemite, in my opinion.
The Fred Walker company decided to have a national competition to come up with a name for the product, unfortunately they didn’t keep a record of the winners name we do know that it was Fred Walker’s daughter who chose the winning name and that name was Vegemite.
Cyril Percy Callister was a food technologist, who was born on 16 February 1893 at Chute near Beaufort, Victoria, son of William Hugh Callister, schoolmaster and his wife Rosetta Anne, née Dixon.
He was educated at state schools, Grenville College, Ballarat, and the Ballarat School of Mines, he attended the University of Melbourne on a major residential scholarship to Queen’s College.
In January 1915 he joined Lewis & Whitty, manufacturers of food and household products. In June he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. Within three months the Department of Defence withdrew him to join the Munitions Branch. Shortly afterwards he was sent to Britain and spent the war working on explosives manufacture in Wales, and in Scotland where he met and married Katherine Hope they had two sons and a daughter.
After her return to Australia in 1919 he rejoined Lewis & Whitty where he remained until that company was taken over. In February 1923 he was appointed to Fred Walker’s small food company to develop yeast-extract for retail sale.
Although this product was known overseas, no information was available about the process, and Callister developed it from brewers’ yeast. Under the trademark Vegemite it was placed on the market early in 1924 and slowly became an established item, solely through Callister’s technological skill and perseverance.
Walker was also interested in methods for preserving cheese, and involved Callister in this as well. Thus the chemist rapidly became well informed in microbiology and began to experiment with cheese-processing.
With the help of patents held by the American James L. Kraft, he made a satisfactory product and Walker used this in 1925 to persuade Kraft to grant a licence for the manufacture of Kraft cheese in Australia. So the Kraft Walker Cheese Co. was established in 1926 with Callister as chief chemist and production superintendent.