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Nabs or Peanut Butter Crackers? Bring Back Nabs

May 17th, 2011 · 31 Comments

By Garland Pollard

20110517-083905.jpgA few years ago, on a Delta flight, I recall an attendant handing out Lance peanut crackers, along with Cokes. How delightfully Southern and declassé, but in a good, circumspect way.

I was curious how such a staple of the Southern diet, namely a Coke and Nabs, could be served on an airline that made such a pretense of being sophisticated. Biscoff maybe, but I could not understand Nabs. Perhaps the Deep South roots of Delta were showing through?

I asked, “How long has Delta been giving out Nabs in flight?”

Nabs?” she asked.

She did not know what “Nabs” were. I then had to explain that “Nabs” were what most in the South call peanut butter crackers. Lance (and that other brand Austin, owned by Kellogg’s) might be the top brands for a peanut butter cracker, but they are all called Nabs because route men from Nabisco used to distribute the Nabs brand for sale at checkout counters and filling stations.

Sometime in the 1970s or 1980s, Nabs by Nabisco were discontinued, and Lance became the dominant brand.

Sadly, I am encountering more and more folk who do not know that packaged peanut butter crackers are called “Nabs.”

In primary school (I have forgotten which grade), I recall doing a Warriner’s grammar exercise where it came up. Perhaps it was about the use of nouns, or singular or plural; that’s not important. The question was something like, “Service stations sell ____ and ____. My good friend Russell Smith gave the answer as, “gas and Nabs.” Why of course! Filling stations sell Nabs. That wasn’t the actual answer, but everyone in the class had a laugh. I don’t know why I remember that.

On Facebook, in the Mississippians section, there is a page called “Nabs or Crackers?” Somehow, you can define yourself by what you call these orange crackers. The main food staple of a Southern filling station, the lowly Nab.

The question, though is that Nabisco, while it had bakeries around the U.S., was mostly a Northeastern company, though I don’t think that many Northeasterners call them Nabs. Perhaps it is that back in the 1950s and 1960s, they didn’t spend as much time in filling stations?

Perhaps Kraft, owners of the Nabisco name, might bring back “Nabs” and reclaim their brand equity and legacy?

Love to hear what other folks think. Nabs or crackers?

More branding stories of interest:

New Kraft Logo. Why Not General Foods?
Glad Mrs. Filbert's Mayo is Still Around
England. Fight for Cadbury and Give Kraft the Augustus Gloop Treatment
Would Nabisco Go Better With Coke?
What's Wrong With Life Savers?
News Roundup: Looking for Ho Ho, Dan River Runs Again, Nabisco Push, A&P Fruitcakes

Tags: Candy · Grocery

31 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Beth Davis // Jun 3, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    I am from rural NC, and I have always heard Nabs – but ONLY the Lance orange, square ones. (I was born in ’83 and don’t remember the original Nabs – don’t know if I’ve ever seen them).

    My June 4, 2011 post is actually about Nabs and I am sharing this link. 🙂

  • 2 Penny // Aug 2, 2011 at 7:49 am

    I’m from Mississippi and we always call them nabs. Nabisco nabs were the best and I wish they’d bring them back.

  • 3 Lee // Aug 31, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    I grew up in New York in the 70’s, and ate NABS every week of my childhood. It was a common product in all the stores at the time. Why do so many people seem to think NABS are a “southern” thing?

  • 4 Juanita // Apr 5, 2012 at 9:03 am

    I am a baby-boomer from NC who grew up on Naps!!!! I definitely have fond memories….

  • 5 Lucian A. Gray, II // Aug 1, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Grew up in the west, a child of the sixties, and moved to the South (Greenville, SC) in the 90’s. Never heard of “nabs” before moving here. Sorry didn’t have the originals, but still love the little devils. Always keep some in my golf bag and glove box.

  • 6 Almanac Calendar | Feather By Feather // Feb 19, 2013 at 11:20 am

    […] correct size screw and were ringing me up, I saw, next to the ancient zagnuts and mary janes and nabs by the register they had a stack of 2013 almanac calendars, $1. No brainer impulse buy.The almanac […]

  • 7 Bill Degenhardt // Nov 1, 2013 at 7:23 am

    My memory of “NABS” differs from the recent comments. Back in 1930-1940 NBC packaged for different “crackers” as NABS. They were Oreos, Lorna Doones, Fig Newtons, and a peanut butter sandwich cookie. Each was packaged in a square package of four. They were available in a counter box with the caption, “Nibble a Nab for a Nickel.” In my fathers ice cream parlor in New York they were often bought along with coffee, hot chocolate, tea, soda, or a malt. With price increases NBC stopped packaging them in this way. Another counter package held 3×8 slices of Drake’s Pound Cake for $0.10 each that my father would toast for the customer on request.

  • 8 Tricia // Apr 23, 2014 at 4:59 am

    Nabs get airtime in the middle grades book “Ghost of Tupelo Landing,” set in a fictional present day North Carolina town. My son and I figured put from context they were crackers, but didn’t realize they were what we call peanut butter crackers. Makes even more sense now! Thanks!

  • 9 Jody // May 23, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    I used this term last night and confused everyone. I just grew hearing any type of cracker sandwiches is a small package called nabs. The vending machine that had all kinda of treats was referred to as the nab machine. Never knew that there had once been an actual product called nabs. My friend’s dad who retires from Nabisco told me nabs was short for nabs. This may be a term that is becoming extinct. 🙁

  • 10 Linda // Jun 28, 2014 at 9:59 am

    I am from Mississippi and have always known them as Nabs…. Love them with my coke!!!

  • 11 Joany // Oct 16, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    I grew up in Eastern Kentucky (the Coal mining area) and we (family) always called them Nabs. Fast forward 43 years and travel to 42 out of the 50 United States and I’ve never crossed paths with anyone else that calls them Nabs. Gas station clerks look at me like I’m a freak when I ask for them.

  • 12 ClemenceD // Apr 7, 2015 at 8:30 am

    I grew up in New Jersey and Delaware and ate these as a child, but never heard the term ‘Nabs.’ I just read it in a book by Maryland writer Laura Lippman (“The Sugar House”) and googled to see what they were, stumbling upon this website.

  • 13 GaryH // Aug 12, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    I grew up in the 1950’s Delta and we ran a country grocery store. In fact, we lived in it. Part of the store converted to living area and 3 rooms added. We sold a ton of nabs. Nabisco and Lance. Nabisco, round, had a package of 4 stacked for as long as I remember. If they asked for nabs we had to ask which kind. Now here’s a question. Who has poured a bag of peanuts in a bottle of Coke and did that bottle have a location on the bottom?

  • 14 GaryH // Aug 12, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    P.S. At some point Nabisco went to a stacked package of 6. Not the Mississippi River Delta but the Mississippi Delta.

  • 15 GerryJ // Sep 3, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    I grew up in the small southern town of South Hill, VA and I have very fond memories of ‘Nabs’ as a kid, mainly from the old Lance pull lever vending machines. There was such a machine at my uncle’s service station, and I always looked forward to going there and begging for change to get a pack of the orange peanut butter Nabs, along with a Lance honey bun and a Brownie chocolate soda! Wow! Great childhood memories…

  • 16 Garland Pollard // Sep 5, 2015 at 7:45 am

    I agree with you on the Brownie soda. Somehow the soda was really popular in Virginia and in country stores thereabouts.

  • 17 Insulinjunkie86 // Sep 17, 2015 at 5:58 am

    As a kid in the 90s I went to aN all girls camp for type 1 diabetics in Massachusetts, and to treat our low blood sugar reactions our counselors would carry nabs and juice boxes in their fanning packs. I grew up in mass and camp was the only place I heard these 4 pack of Peanut butter crackers called nabs…. I thought of them while treating a low and thought I’d take a little stroll down memory lane and research a little bit on the tasty crackers.

  • 18 Bud in New Jersey // Nov 18, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    I grew up in New Jersey in the 1930’s and remember “Nible a Nab for a Nickel”, a Nabisco product made in NJ. A good description was posted by:Bill Degenhardt // Nov 1, 2013. He hit the nail right on the head!

  • 19 Debby // Mar 15, 2016 at 10:16 am

    I grew up in south central Kentucky. My father worked at the gas station at that time and we would go visit him and always get a treat of Nabs and a small coke in a bottle. Awesome! And getting to pull the coke through the tracks on the coke machine was so much fun too. Sweet memories.

  • 20 Bruce Hux // Jun 26, 2016 at 10:55 am

    Grew up in Norfolk Va., born in 1955, and remember my mother refering to Nabs…..

    Also Brownie chocolate drinks in a 6 oz. bottle, better than a YOO=HOO if possible….

  • 21 Garland Pollard // Jun 28, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    Bruce..i was born in Norfolk too….and Brownie was always better than Yoo-Hoo…

  • 22 Bruce Hux // Jun 29, 2016 at 9:20 am

    Garland- What part of Norfolk did you live and what schools and years?

  • 23 Ginny Evans // Sep 16, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    I was born in 1928, and am within 8 weeks of my 88th birthday. I’ve been reading Brad Watson’s new novel “Miss Jane”. There was a mention of Nabs, but with no explanation, and I immediately thought ‘Nibble a Nab for a Nickel”. Growing up in Illinois in the 30s and 40s Nabs were a fact of life. I put the book down, and immediately slathered several saltines with JIF….not quite the same without cheese crackers, but good enough in a pinch.

  • 24 john smith // Nov 15, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    I just wonder why the 4 nab pack taste different than the 6 nab pack

  • 25 Bruce Hux // Jul 28, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    Brownie Chocolate bottles….ice cold….damn…

  • 26 Bruce Hux // Jul 28, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    Garlnd…see my question above.

  • 27 Brenda Leyendecker // Aug 8, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    I grew up in a small town in Kentucky and was lucky enough to have a “country store” across U.S. 60 from my house. My Dad was a single parent and gave me a daily allowance. “Nabs” were what he insisted I buy each morning to make up for not eating the breakfast he cooked for me every day until I was in High School. The brands were Lance and Tom’s but regardless of brand we called peanut butter crackers (orange) Nabs and I miss that we no longer call them that. Thank goodness Coca Cola is still around!

  • 28 David Martin // Aug 11, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    I grew up in Nash County, NC, and was well into adulthood before I realized tha “nabs” was not the universal name for these things. However, where I lived one never asked just for “nabs,” but for “a pack of nabs,” similar to “a pack of cigarettes.” What I can’t figure out is why no maker of cheese crackers makes them big enough for you to make your own “nabs” at home, that is, of the square yellow type as opposed to the somewhat less tasty round ones. I still make them all the time as I head into my 8th decade on the planet, but I could do better if bigger cheese crackers were available.

  • 29 Joy in Alabama // Oct 22, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    This was so interesting to read! I’m from Alabama and I’ve never hear them called Nabs. But it’s kind of like we do here: we call all soft drinks a Coke. One time we lived in KY for a couple of years and I was with a lady who asked me would I like to go through the drive through and get something. I said, “Sure, I’d love to have a Coke.” And she got me a Coca-Cola instead of asking me what kind! (I wanted Dr Pepper!) haha I’m going to start calling cheese crackers “Nabs” just so it won’t die out! I love being Southern and hate it that so many Southern sayings are dying out (although I understand this one is not exclusively Southern).

  • 30 Kim // Oct 30, 2017 at 10:00 am

    Yep, I remember my mother giving me packages of Nabs in the early 80’s in New England

  • 31 KRISTIN // Nov 17, 2017 at 7:23 am

    The name Nabs is still going strong here in Eastern N.C.
    A friend of mine who moved from Ohio a few years ago worked at grocery story. A older gentleman asked what aisle the Nabs were on. He said the man looked at him crazy when he walked him to where the cookies were. The gentleman started laughing & had to described what he was actually looking for.
    I’m 31 & didn’t know till I heard that story that everyone didn’t call them NABS.

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