1957 “Nibble Nobby’s Nuts” trademarked

Drink coaster advertising c.2000

It’s a line that has provoked a chortle since 1957. “Nibble Nobby’s Nuts” is ambiguous enough to be printable but rude enough to be memorable, especially with its splendid alliteration.

Nobby’s Nuts was originally a one-man company, founded by Max “Nobby” Noblet. We don’t know a great deal about Max’s business career. He was, however, a member of a well-known family in Port Pirie, South Australia, and his name crops up regularly in the Recorder, the town’s newspaper. Born in 1913, he followed in his father’s footsteps as an athlete and lacrosse player then, during World War II, served in New Guinea with the AIF.

In the 1950s he began his nut business, using his nickname as the brand. There’s no record of who devised the memorable “Nibble Nobby’s Nuts” slogan, but it was registered as a trademark in November 1957.  The nuts were originally sold in and around central Adelaide, but the brand was soon available in other eastern states and via a separate operation in Western Australia.

Just nine years after the famous line was registered, Noblet sold the South Australian operation to Associated Products and Distribution Pty Ltd  (APD), a subsidiary of British Tobacco.  The same year, the Western Australian business was sold to Watsons Food Holding Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of George Weston Foods. The brand thus passed out of Australian hands.

It was the beginning of an ownership merry-go-round. British Tobacco, which became Amatil and then Coca Cola Amatil (CCA) decided to concentrate on its drinks business and, in 1992, sold its snack food division, which included Nobby’s, to the British-owned United Biscuits. At this point, CCA held around 56 per cent of the snack food market in Australia via its Smith’s Snackfood Company. Then, in 1997, the US-based Frito-Lay, a division of Pepsico, bought the United Biscuits worldwide snack food business.  And Nobby’s had yet another international owner. Today the brand is owned by Pepsico’s subsidiary, The Smith’s Snackfood Company.

Through all these changes, the brand held fast to its beloved slogan. The line went into the culture. In 1976 the Sydney Music Hall Theatre staged a “mad musical revue” titled At Last The Nibble Nobby’s Nuts Show. In 1988, the line made it to TV screens with a notable animated commercial that saw pub posters coming to life.

In 2005, the brand, along with the “Nibble Nobby’s Nuts” line, was launched in the UK. The advertising there was considerably cruder and appeared calculated to appeal to the lowest common denominator among young male drinkers. At least one columnist wrote of it with scorn.

Despite their international ownership and dubious double entendre line,  Nobby’s Nuts were considered by the Royal Australian Mint to be sufficiently Australian to be featured on a one-dollar coin. The coin was part of a special release in 2021 known as the Great Aussie Coin HuntIt puts Nobby’s up there as an icon with pavlova, lamingtons and Vegemite. And who are we to argue? Sadly, Max Noblet didn’t live to see it. He passed away in 1995.

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