Small Secrets of Great Kitchen Masters
In this article about Podravka, we tell a story about the company’s most iconic product – Vegeta. This all-purpose food seasoning with its distinctive blue packaging was invented in 1959 by Podravka’s chemical scientist Zlata Bartl and her team. Today, it’s the most popular addition to savoury meals in Europe. It also can be found in more than 50 countries around the world.
Founded by a female chemical scientist
Dehydrated vegetables and soups gained popularity in the 1940s and were advertised aggressively across the US market as a quick and easy meal option.
Podravka launched the first dehydrated soup ‘in a bag’ in 1957 at the initiative of young chemical scientist Zlata Bartl. Ms Bartl worked in Podravka as a chemical technician and a team leader in the company’s research lab from 1955.
Two years after Podravka produced the first soup, Zlata and her team invented the dehydrated mixture of vegetables and salt suitable to season a wide range of meals. The veggies used in the mix are carrot, celery, onion, parsnip, potato and parsley.
The new mixture was named Vegeta 40, and it got its name after the English word ‘vegetable’, and according to some, the number 40 symbolises the age when vitamins start to play an essential part in one’s life. In 1971, Podravka dropped the number from the name since everyone simply called it ‘Vegeta’.
The package design and marketing
The first package was a blue cardboard box designed by the Zagreb Ozeha Agency. Later, Vegeta also came in a glass jar, a pouch or a tin.
It was an innovative product, quickly accepted by cooks and consumers alike. Along the novelty of taste and versatility of use; design and marketing played a big part in its success. The blue colour, in general, is not a typical ‘food colour’. The decision to package the new seasoning in blue was a bold strategic move, making the product easily recognisable on the shelf.
Besides the background colour, Vegeta is recognised for the logotype’s white typography and a chef’s mascot, approving with a wink and an OK gesture. Podravka updated these elements over the years, slightly changing them and periodically refreshing, but the main idea remained the same.
In 2019, Vegeta celebrated its 60th birthday, and Podravka decided to include their consumers in the story. Together with leading marketing agencies, they launched a page dedicated to the 60 years of Vegeta, where they invited people to design their package with predesigned templates.
The campaign was a big hit, with over 32 thousand entries from all over the world. Thousands of different packages were then put to sale, allowing consumers to choose the one they like the most. The jubilee was also marked by an exhibition in the Croatian Design Society, which showcased the evolution of Vegeta over time. The exhibition design was made by Brigada and accompanied by a catalogue designed by Bruketa&Žinić&Grey.
This was not the first time the company went beyond regular marketing practice. Since the early years, Vegeta was not just a seasoning, passively waiting to be found by consumers, the marketing activities always played an essential role in building this brand.
One of the most popular was the TV show called ‘Small secrets of great kitchen masters’ (Croatian: ‘Male tajne velikih majstora kuhinje’) which started airing in 1974. It was broadcast every evening at prime time, before daily news, offering one recipe per episode.
Besides a recognisable theme-song performed by another Croatian icon – Arsen Dedić, the most memorable was the end of each recipe, a kind of a tagline, ‘and one spoon of Vegeta’ (Croatian: ‘i jedna žlica Vegete’).
Podravka periodically also published Vegeta’s cookbooks.
In 1967, just eight years after the first introduction, and on the wave of popularity at home, Vegeta went global. The first importers were Hungary and Russia making the first steps to becoming the recognisable ‘Croatian condiment’ it would become. Today, Vegeta can be found in over 60 different markets on five continents.
The expansion was not just to different markets; it happened with the product, too. Vegeta is now the umbrella brand of the three main lines – Original, Natur and Grill; and Maestro Monospices.
It started with Vegeta Twist in 2000, Vegeta Natur was introduced in 2010, and Vegeta Grill a year later. Like in the beginning, Podravka’s research team continually works on new products, following the consumers’ needs and the latest trends.
Judging by its first 60 years, Vegeta is a timeless product, and deserving of its adjective iconic.