10 Facts About Cenovis: A Savory Spread for Bread

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.

Sources:


Special thanks to Cenovis AG for helping to support the photo shoot for my new book from Helvetiq that’s coming out in September 2020: Pains Maison (French) / Brot Huus-Gmacht (German) / Swiss Bread (English).

Updated: June 11, 2020

16 replies »

  1. Merci pour tous ces renseignements toujours au top!
    Je fais partie de ceux qui adorent le Cenovis!! Mais tu as raison, on aime ou on déteste. Cela beaucoup au goût de la Marmite anglaise mais je ne sais pas si c’est un peu identique quand à la composition. Bravo pour cet excellent blog!

  2. Personally I will never use Cenovis “pure”. Even on a tresse, I first spread a good quantity of butter that is then carefully mixed with the Cenovis. This is something that is deeply rooted in being a child in Switzerland in the 20th century like the Parfait you mentioned in an earlier post, the Tiki, the Ovomaltine and military biscuits and mint Sugus ;O) It is good that some of these brands survived until now…

    • Hi Franco! Thank you for sharing this! Cenovis really needs butter, doesn’t it? I have to work on finding the right ratio of butter to Cenovis. 🙂 The Tiki is new to me!! I appreciate you bringing this to my attention. Will likely be the topic of a future blog post… Many thanks, and I hope you are having a great weekend. -Heddi

    • Ah, yes! Cenovis is perfect for this! Glad I could help! 😉 Thanks for your message. Hope all is well. -Heddi

  3. Hello Heddi. Great Cenovis presentation … even if you don’t like it so much !
    Try to use it in the kitchen, the funny taste will not appear in the final recipe and will bring “umami”.
    I’m Swiss and American and I love so much Cenovis that I made one similar in Brazil with the name of Cenovit. Clients that know Cenovis, Marmite and Vegemite all buy the Cenovit and the proof of succes is that they all rebuy !
    Wish you a great new year 2019 with a happy winter.
    Patrick

    • Hello Patrick! Happy New Year to you! Fascinating that you have developed a Brazilian version of Cenovis. It still isn’t my favorite, but I like it better than Le Parfait! 😉 Best wishes, -Heddi

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