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Yeast extract

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Yeast extract is a common ingredient in commercially prepared soups (canned, frozen, or deli).[1][2] It is a flavor enhancer like monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Yeast extracts consist of the cell contents of yeast without the cell walls;[3] they are used as food additives or flavorings, or as nutrients for bacterial culture media. They are often used to create savory flavors and umami taste sensations[4] and can be found in a large variety of packaged food[5] including frozen meals, crackers, snack foods, gravy, stock and more. They are rich in B vitamins (but not B12). Yeast extracts and fermented foods contain glutamic acid (free glutamates), an amino acid which adds an umami flavor. Glutamic acid is found in meat, cheese, fungi (mushrooms and yeast) and vegetables—such as broccoli and tomatoes.[6][7] A number of other substances found in yeast extract provide aromas, some meat-like, when allowed to react under heat.[8]

The heat-autolytic process to make yeast extract of the autolysate type was invented in the 19th century by Justus von Liebig.[9] Yeast cells are heated until they rupture, then the cells' own digestive enzymes break their proteins down into simpler compounds (amino acids and peptides), a process called autolysis.[10] The insoluble cell walls are then separated by centrifuge, filtered, and usually spray-dried.[11] This is the process used for Vegemite, Marmite, and the like.[12]

Yeast extracts in liquid form can be dried to a light paste or a dry powder. This is not the same as nutritional yeast, which are made from intact cells not directly hydrolyzed and consequently have a lighter flavor.[12]


Yeast extracts in general are produced in three steps: fermentation (growing the yeast), disruption (breaking of the cells), and separation (to keep the soluble part). Although the vast majority of yeast extract spreads are made using von Liebig's traditional approach of heat-autolysis using surplus yeast from beer brewing, other methods do exist for producing specialized types.[13]

In terms of fermentation, spent beer yeast is commonly contaminated with the bitter compounds from hops, requiring a "debittering" step to wash out most of this undesired flavor. Yeast from other sources are not affected by this issue.[14] Spent brewer's yeast is also quite biodiverse, containing yeasts other than traditional Saccharomyces cerevisiae and sometimes beer spoilage-causing lactic acid bacteria too.[15]

For disruption of the cell, some physical and chemical methods may be used in place of the heat-autolysis process. Doing so may allow specific compounds to be extracted or to produce an extract without the hydrolysis of cell contents (as in autolysis) happening.[13]

Dietary concerns[edit]

Depending on the source, yeast extract may contain gluten. Brewer's yeast are especially likely to contain the protein due to contact with the grains used in brewing. In the case of yeast autolysate however, the yeast proteases are able to degrade most of the gluten. For example, Marmite contains around 30 part per million gluten according to third-party testing, meeting the EU "very low gluten" limit but not the "gluten free" definition. Unilever reports that no cases of gluten-related reactions have been reported for Marmite.[16]

Yeast extract products derived from plant feedstock are by definition vegan and kosherpareve, although some consumers prefer extra certification.[17] They are also generally considered halal,[18] despite the concern that the yeast has come into contact with alcohol.

Use in food[edit]

Yeast autolysates are the main ingredient in AussieMite, Mightymite, Vegemite, Marmite, New Zealand Marmite, Promite, Cenovis, Vitam-R, Brazilian Cenovit and Maggi sauce.[19][20][21] Bovril (Ireland and the United Kingdom) switched from beef extract to yeast extract for 2005 and most of 2006, but later switched back.[22]

Yeast extract is used as a flavoring in foods. It is a common ingredient in American barbecue-flavored potato chips such as Lay's.[23] It is also widely used in soup bases.



Marmite (/ˈmɑːrmt/ MAR-myte) is a British food spread produced by Unilever. Marmite has been produced since 1902. It is a sticky, dark brown food paste with a distinctive, powerful flavour, which is extremely salty. This distinctive taste is represented in the marketing slogan: "Love it or hate it." Such is its prominence in British popular culture that the product's name is often used as a metaphor for something that is an acquired taste or tends to polarise opinions.[24][25]

In Australasia and the Pacific, British Marmite is sold as "Our Mate", due to the presence of a licensed Marmite produced in New Zealand.


Vegemite (/ˈvɛɪmt/ VEJ-i-myte)[26][27] is a thick, dark brown Australian food spread made from leftover brewers' yeast extract with various vegetable and spice additives. It was developed by Cyril Percy Callister in Melbourne, Victoria, in 1922. The Vegemite brand was owned by Mondelez International (formerly Kraft Foods Inc.)[28] until January 2017, when it was acquired by the Australian Bega Cheese group in a US$460,000,000 (equivalent to about $572,000,000 in 2023) agreement for full Australian ownership after Bega would buy most of Mondelez International's Australia and New Zealand grocery and cheese business.[29]

A spread for sandwiches, toast, crumpets and cracker biscuits as well as a filling for pastries, Vegemite is similar to British Marmite, New Zealand Marmite, Australian Promite, MightyMite, AussieMite, OzEmite, Brazilian Cenovit, German Vitam-R and Swiss Cenovis.

Vegemite is salty, slightly bitter, malty, and rich in glutamates giving it an umami flavour similar to beef bouillon. It is vegan, kosher and halal.[30]

Marmite (New Zealand)[edit]

Marmite (/ˈmɑːrmt/ MAR-myte) is a food spread produced in New Zealand by Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing Company and distributed in Australia and the Pacific. It is similar to the British Marmite, but the two products are made by different companies. This is the only product sold as Marmite in Australasia and the Pacific, whereas elsewhere in the world the British version predominates. In the rest of the world it is sold as "NZ-Mite".

Marmite has been manufactured in New Zealand since 1919. The product's popularity in England prompted the Sanitarium Health Food Company to obtain sole rights to distribute the product in New Zealand and Australia in 1908. They later began manufacturing Marmite under licence in Christchurch, albeit using a modified version of the original recipe, most notable for its inclusion of sugar and caramel. Common ingredients are also slightly different quantities from the British version; the New Zealand version has high levels of potassium, for example. New Zealand Marmite is described as having a "weaker" or "less tangy" flavour than the British version.


A jar of Vitam-R
TypeYeast spread
Place of originGermany
Main ingredientsYeast extract
VariationsKräuter (Herbs)
Food energy
(per 100 serving)
223 kcal (934 kJ)
Nutritional value
(per 100 serving)
Protein29.8 g
Fat0.3 g
Carbohydrate25.1 g
Similar dishesMarmite, Vegemite

Vitam-R is a savory yeast extract spread made in Hameln, Germany, by the company Vitam Hefe-Produkt GmbH. It was first developed by Rückforth AG in Stettin (today's Szczecin, Poland) in 1925,[31][32] following the discovery by Justus von Liebig that yeast could be concentrated.[33] It is sometimes described as having a smoother flavour than similar products such as Marmite,[34] Vegemite, or Cenovis. Unlike those brands, Vitam-R is not an iconic part of its home country's cuisine, but it, too, is described as having a love-it-or-hate-it flavour.[35] It is both vegan and by extension, vegetarian, and is sold primarily in Reformhaus health-food stores.[31]


Cenovis on bread, with jar in the background

Cenovis is a product based on yeast extract that is similar to Marmite and Vegemite, rich in vitamin B1. In the form of a dark brown food paste, it is used to flavour soups, sausages and salads. The most popular way to consume Cenovis, however, is to spread it on a slice of buttered bread, as stated on the product's packaging (it can also be blended directly into butter, and then spread on bread, or used as a filling in croissants and buns).

Cenovis is popular in Switzerland (particularly Romandie). It was developed in Rheinfelden in 1931, on the initiative of a master brewer named Alex Villinger,[36] and was subsequently produced by the company Cenovis SA.

Other uses[edit]

The nutrition-rich nature of yeast extract lends it to a variety of uses. It was historically popular as a vitamin supplement for humans.[37] Rich in proteins and nucleotides, it currently finds use in animal feed[38] and microbiology (see yeast extract agar) as nutritional supplements.[39] It also finds use in cosmetics and skincare products due to moisturizing and alleged antioxidant properties.[40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Handcrafted chicken soup doesn't happen in 30 minutes, but it can take less work than you might think". National Post. 17 April 2017. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  2. ^ "Campbell Rethinks Its Soup Recipe as Consumer Tastes Change". The New York Times. 10 November 2015. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  3. ^ Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste. Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspe. Columbia University Press. 2014. p. 172. ISBN 978-0-231-16890-8. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  4. ^ Baines, D.; Seal, R. (2012). Natural Food Additives, Ingredients and Flavourings. Woodhead Publishing Series in Food Science, Technology and Nutrition. Elsevier Science. p. 296. ISBN 978-0-85709-572-5. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  5. ^ Costello, Rose (21 March 2013). "Do you really know what exactly is in your frozen chips?". The Irish Times. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  6. ^ "Your guide to glutamate (+vegan queso salsa dip)". WhyFoodWorks. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  7. ^ Renton, Alex (10 July 2005). "If MSG is so bad for you, why doesn't everyone in Asia have a headache?". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  8. ^ Kale, Prajyoti; Mishra, Anusha; Annapure, Uday S. (June 2022). "Development of vegan meat flavour: A review on sources and techniques". Future Foods. 5: 100149. doi:10.1016/j.fufo.2022.100149.
  9. ^ "Marmite: Profile of a yeast-based spread".
  10. ^ "Here's how food companies sneak MSG into foods". Business Insider. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  11. ^ George A. Burdock, Encyclopedia of Food and Color Additives 3:2972, CRC Press, 1997, ISBN 0849394147
  12. ^ a b Bond, Owen. "Benefits of Yeast Extract". Livestrong.com. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  13. ^ a b Teimouri, Iraj; Ahranjani, Rana Naderi (August 2020). Yeast Extracts: Production, Properties and Application. 6th National Conference On Strategic Research in Chemistry And Chemical Engineering With An Emphasis On Indigenous Technology In Iran.
  14. ^ Nand, K. (1987). "Debittering of spent brewer's yeast for food purposes". Food/Nahrung. 31 (2): 127–131. doi:10.1002/food.19870310208.
  15. ^ Jacob, Friedrich Felix; Striegel, Lisa; Rychlik, Michael; Hutzler, Mathias; Methner, Frank-Jürgen (24 June 2019). "Spent Yeast from Brewing Processes: A Biodiverse Starting Material for Yeast Extract Production". Fermentation. 5 (2): 51. doi:10.3390/fermentation5020051.
  16. ^ Thompson, Tricia (1 February 2011). "Is Marmite Gluten Free?". Gluten Free Dietitian.
  17. ^ Hook, Chris (1 November 2019). "Vegemite joins vegan movement with official certification to celebrate World Vegan Day on Friday". 7 News. Retrieved 4 November 2019.
  18. ^ Hargreaves, Wendy (24 January 2010). "Vege spite spreads". Sunday Herald Sun. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  19. ^ Frawley, Francesca (13 October 2016). "Having a Marmite CRISIS? Here are the tasty alternatives (and it doesn't involve Bovril)". Express.co.uk. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  20. ^ "Vegemite, Marmite, Promite - which is best?". Stuff. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  21. ^ Barton, Laura (4 January 2002). "100 years of Marmite". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  22. ^ Wainwright, Martin (19 November 2004). "Bovril drops the beef to go vegetarian". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  23. ^ "Lay's Barbecue Flavor Potato Chips Ingredients". Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  24. ^ Hodsdon, Amelia (22 April 2010). "How Marmite spread its way through journalism". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 June 2014.
  25. ^ Gabbatt, Adam (13 October 2016). "Marmite: Americans wonder what's all the fuss over divisive British spread?". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
  26. ^ Macquarie Dictionary, Fourth Edition (2005). Melbourne, The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd. ISBN 1-876429-14-3
  27. ^ vegemite. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House. 4 May 2009.
  28. ^ "The Vegemite Story". Kraft Foods.
  29. ^ Beilharz, Nikolai (19 January 2017). "Vegemite bought by Bega from US food giant Mondelez International – ABC Rural – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". ABC News. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  30. ^ "FAQs - Start with VEGEMITE". vegemite.com.au. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  31. ^ a b "Vitam: Mit Hefe-Extrakt zum Welthersteller". Bio-markt.info. Bio-Markt.info: Das Nachrichtenportal der Naturkostbranche. 1 September 2009. Retrieved 12 September 2018. Beispielhaft für den wissensbezogenen Wandel der Vermarktung steht Vitam-R, ein Hefeextrakt, der Ende der 1920er Jahre als »Fleischextrakt des Vegetariers«39 vermarktet wurde. Das Präparat wurde 1925 von der Stettiner Rückforth AG...
  32. ^ Uwe Spiekermann (14 May 2018). Künstliche Kost: Ernährung in Deutschland, 1840 bis heute. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. pp. 407–. ISBN 978-3-647-31719-9.
  33. ^ Boulton, Chris, ed. (2012). Encyclopedia of brewing. Weinheim: Wiley. p. 394. ISBN 978-1-4051-6744-4. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  34. ^ "Tesco takes Marmite off virtual shelves amid Brexit price hikes". dw.com. Deutsche Welle. 12 October 2016. Retrieved 12 September 2018. But if Marmite stays off the shelves, Germany could have an answer. A company in Hameln has been making Vitam-R yeast spread since the 1920s. It may not have the same cachet as Marmite, but its smoother taste has a cult following among health food aficionados. But it, too, has become more expensive to import to Britain - even if, after Brexit, it will by default become the leading brand in the EU.
  35. ^ Angela Helmberger (24 May 2018). Glücklich trotz Unverträglichkeiten: Rotationsdiät: Bauchschmerzen und Nahrungsmittelunverträglichkeiten dauerhaft lindern – Reizdarm und chronisch entzündlichen Darmerkrankungen vorbeugen. tredition. pp. 104–. ISBN 978-3-7469-4482-1.
  36. ^ "Lorsqu'on allie la saveur à la santé ..." [When one combines flavour with health...]. Cenovis.ch. 1999. Archived from the original on 9 March 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2011. (French)
  37. ^ Bastian, Hilda (2007). "Lucy Wills (1888–1964): The life and research of an adventurous independent woman". The Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. 38 (1): 89–91. PMID 19069045. Archived from the original on 8 December 2008. Retrieved 21 June 2009.
  38. ^ "Yeast in the Animal Feed Industry". American Dairymen. 18 July 2017.
  39. ^ "Yeast Extract | Culture Media". Neogen.
  40. ^ "Yeast Extract (Explained + Products)". incidecoder.com.

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