eno's vegetable moto

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Wed May 11 21:34:19 UTC 2011

Let me grasp at a few straws and speculate a bit...

Earlier I mentioned an ad for Eno's Vegetable Moto in The Strand Magazine
for 1893. I've done a bit more digging and found a number of other
appearances both in GB and in the Straights Times archives (e.g.,
http://goo.gl/azlMT ).

Eno's Vegetable Moto was available as a companion to Eno's Fruit Salt. The
company had headquarters in Bangkok, but distributed everywhere in the
Pacific and in the UK and SA. The on-line scanned ads are available for
years 1880-1897. I have no idea what happened to the company after that.

However, it cannot be a /direct/ precursor to Vegemite. Although the
Vegemite lore claims that the inventor's daughter pulled the name at random
as a part of a contest, this easily could have been faked at the time and
the similarly to both Marmite and Vegetable Moto suggests that the naming
process was not so simple. But the disqualifying factor is the fact that the
company was started in 1923--two years after Marmite was licensed in NZ--and
I find no evidence of Eno's company surviving this long (unlike, say, Bovril
that later bought the Marmite brand and is still around as various beef
concentrates; an ad for Bovril can also be found in that Strand volume).

On the other hand, Marmite started in 1902 and no information is available
about the origin of its name--at least, none that I could find. That date is
a lot closer to the availability of Vegetable Moto.

Marmite website claims a possible derivation from the "French pot" names
"marmite". OED claims the picture of a pot has appeared on the label of
Marmite since the company's inception.


> *Marmite* originally came in a small earthenware pot, similar to the kind
> of French casserole dish called a '*Marmite*', (pronounced MAR-MEET). This
> may be where *Marmite* gets its name from.
> You can still see the original '*Marmite*' dish pictured on the front of
> the pot, but we started using glass jars in the 1920s. The shape of the jar
> and the distinctive red and yellow label have remained pretty much the same
> since then.

But, it seems, the contemporary Marmite promoters got the naming in reverse.
The picture was placed on the label to associate the word (already known)
with the mark (whose origin is obscure). "Marmite" does not mean
specifically the pot of the shape pictured on the label--the term is more
general (soup pot or stockpot is a reasonable interpretation). If anything,
I interpret the picture as a play on words, an attempt at verbal humor from
the inventors.

Although Marmite and Vegemite were both based on byproducts from breweries
(hydrolyzed yeast), they did involve vegetable components and thus were
quite similar to Vegetable Moto in composition (whose formula was
proprietary, but included yeast and vegetable extracts).

Now, why "Moto"? "Moto", or, more generally, "No Moto" (although "no" often
appears as a suffix on the head word), appears in Latinized versions such as
Aji No Moto (the giant MSG manufacturer and the euphemistic name for MSG--
http://goo.gl/szRjY ) and Dashi No Moto (the dry granules of "Dashi"
concentrate--the traditional Japanese bonito/seaweed broth --
http://goo.gl/oXuL5 ) and Tsuyu No Moto (basically, varieties of soy sauce
used for particular flavoring, e.g., soup base -- http://goo.gl/f3Mzi ). It
also appears in some versions of canned fried tofu--Inarizushi no Moto (
http://goo.gl/vVMf9 ). As such, "Moto" appears to stand in for some sort of
concentrate/extract/preserve or a distinctive flavor (flavor concentrate?),
which is the same meaning as in "Vegetable Moto". Of course, I know no
Japanese, so I have no idea what it /actually/ means, but there is a
secondary meaning, irrespectively of the original (note that the picture of
Aji no moto bottle linked to above is of a Peruvian product used in local
cooking, not a Japanese import).

There is a certain secondary association with "umame", which did not enter
the lexicon in any language until 1908. Glutamic acid and its salts
(including MSG) have a much stronger association with umame (which has
always served a significant role in marketing of MSG), although chefs are
more likely to associate "umame" with red meat and mushrooms.

So, my question concerns the possibility of a connection between Vegetable
Moto and the two "mites"--Marmite and Vegemite. Is it plausible or unlikely
that the name Marmite was derived from "Vegetable Moto" or "moto" in
general, perhaps in direct competition with Vegetable Moto? If so, what
effect, if any, might it have had on the coinage of Vegemite? Does anyone
know what happened to Eno's Vegetable Moto at the turn of the century? How
long did the company survive?


PS: I found a few more "No Moto" products, all canned:


PPS: I just spotted another interesting connection. The original Eno's ad
includes a testimonial that claims, "Saved me much misery from colonial
fevers." Interestingly, a similar association exists--quite
unjustifiably--with Marmite. British colonial troops received their doses of
quinine in pills that combined quinine and Marmite. But marmite was simply
the vehicle that also provided vitamins and a distraction from the
bitterness of quinine--it was quinine that addressed the "colonial fevers".
This suggests an even stronger connection between the two than I previously

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