Similar to Vegemite in Australia and Marmite in the UK, people generally have strong feelings about Cenovis, an iconic Swiss food product—either loving or hating it. This pâte à tartiner, a spread for bread, has spanned generations of Swiss families. It appears on the list of Switzerland’s traditional foods maintained by Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse. Want to know more about this savory brown paste from Switzerland?
Here are 10 quick facts about Cenovis:
1. Switzerland was first introduced to Cenovis in 1931, when the country was facing an economic depression and products like meat were scarce. Alex Villinger, a beer brewer in Rheinfelden (Aargau), decided to use his brewer’s yeast to create a spreadable food product.
2. It contains the following ingredients: Brewer’s yeast, water, vegetable extract, cooking salt and vitamin B1. This product closely resembles Vegemite in Australia and Marmite in the United Kingdom.
3. The name, “Cenovis,” is a portmanteau. It combines the Latin words, “cenă” or “cenae,” which means “meal,” with “vis” or “rŏboris” which signifies “force.” Therefore, this name helps to portray this product as a “fortifying meal,” according to Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse. During the 1950s, soldiers in Switzerland received Cenovis as part of their military rations.
4. Cenovis comes in two forms: as a pate à tartiner, a smooth paste with a shiny texture and a salty, umami flavor, or as a liquid condiment for meat dishes, soups and more. There’s also a version made without salt.
5. You don’t need to keep it in the refrigerator. According to the manufacturer’s website, it spreads more easily when not refrigerated.
6. The most typical way to enjoy Cenvois is at the breakfast table on a buttered piece of bread, particularly a braided loaf of Zopf /Tresse. You can also mix it with oil and vinegar for a quick salad dressing. For more recipes with this product, go to Cenovis.ch.
7. In 1978, Migros began selling its own version of this spread, known as Fitovit. The supermarket continued selling it under this brand name until 2002.
8. In French-speaking Suisse romande, Cenovis seems to be more popular than in the German-speaking regions of the country.
9. Today, the production facilities can be found in Arisdorf in the canton of Basel-Landschaft.
10. You can still find Cenovis at Switzerland’s major supermarkets, such as Coop and Migros. A 70-gram tube of this savory spread currently costs about CHF 3.80.
- Cenovis, Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse
- “Brot mit Bierhefe,” Basler Zeitung
- “Le goût des autres « Cenovis, passion ou rejet »,” Radio Television Suisse
Special thanks to Cenovis AG for helping to support the photo shoot for my new book from Helvetiq, which will be available in October 2020: Pains Maison (French) / Brot Huusgmacht (German) / Swiss Bread (English).
Updated: January 8, 2023