Nabob Foods

Nabob Foods

Nabob Foods is a BC company!  This surprising fact was brought to our attention in a recent Culinary Historians of Canada post.  The next couple of blogs will focus on the rise, fall and rise again of Nabob.

In 1896 Nabob Foods was founded by Robert Kelly and Frank Douglas in Vancouver, BC (1).

The original logo was a Nabob (2). This word might have been chosen for its hint of wealth and riches, or it might also be a play on the first name of one of the founders, Robert Kelly, known as “Bob”.

Nabob brass coffee spoon - advertising

The brass tea or coffee spoon familiar to many people is now a collector’s item. It’s described as a “genie” (3) on the internet sites selling kitchen kitsch. It was free, along with Nabob coupons to be collected and turned in for munificent prizes.

Nabob Foods had great corporate success as a coffee company and then as a general foods distributor.  Its advertising campaigns were focused, and attention-getting, as this ad from March and April of 1916 , Vancouver Sun shows.

April 1916 Nabob offers

Cover- Time Hooured recipes of he Canada West - Nabob FoodsNabob expanded into many areas of food products.  “Time-honoured recipes of the Canadian West from Nabob Foods” was distributed in 1973.   The 64-page free recipe book included a foreword by Jean White, Director of the Home Services Department, and pioneer recipes photographed at Heritage Village, Burnaby and Surrey Museum.

‘Time-honoured recipes” was a highlight of the 1970s years.  Nabob Foods featured a wide range of products in an expanding corporate field.  What lay ahead?  These photos from the book presage the future.

nabob premium products 1973

Nabob spices display -



(2)  A Nabob was a viceregent or governor of a province of the ancient Mogul Empire in India (Webster Dictionary.

(3) Mid 17th century (denoting a guardian or protective spirit): from French génie, from Latin genius (see genius). Génie was adopted in the current sense by the 18th-century French translators of The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments, because of its resemblance in form and sense to Arabic jinnī ‘jinne  [take note, scrabble players, can also be spelled djinn / jin / jinn]




13 Responses to Nabob Foods

  1. Susan Janet Van Gasbeck May 9, 2021 at 8:55 am #

    Great post – would love to see recipes from this publication? “Time-honoured recipes of the Canadian West from Nabob Foods”

    • Mary Leah de Zwart May 9, 2021 at 4:10 pm #

      “Time-Honoured Recipes” will be featured in one of the next blogs. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Randal Oulton May 9, 2021 at 9:24 am #

    Such an interesting post. Thank you for this!

    • Mary Leah de Zwart May 9, 2021 at 4:10 pm #

      Thanks, Randal!

  3. Nina May 9, 2021 at 9:40 am #

    Mary Leah, I loved this article! Brought back so many memories!!

    • Mary Leah de Zwart May 9, 2021 at 4:09 pm #

      Me too! It took 60 coupons to get one of the Nabob prizes….

  4. G Miller May 9, 2021 at 3:15 pm #

    Nabob has two other meanings…. One relates to a Brit returning from India with an immense fortune; the other is a more general use — person with immense wealth. I suspect the use of Nabob by Kelly Douglas was more to confere status than to relate to a Indian prince or governore

    • Mary Leah de Zwart May 9, 2021 at 4:08 pm #

      I did read on the City of Vancouver archives site that it might have been a play on Robert Kelly’s name. Thanks for your comment!

  5. Linda December 2, 2021 at 11:41 am #

    I have a box of cinnamon stick I believe from about 1967. Looking for more info on it.

  6. Rhonda January 15, 2022 at 7:54 pm #

    I have been collecting Nabob for years. Love the older stuff

  7. Michael Broadbent February 9, 2022 at 7:29 am #

    I too, have been collecting Nabob for years.

    • Mary Leah de Zwart February 9, 2022 at 12:36 pm #

      I wonder if there is a Nabob museum somewhere. It would be very interesting.

  8. Dwight Donaldson August 4, 2022 at 10:39 pm #

    Found wooden crate in my garage. Vanilla bean from Madagascar shipped from Zink and Triest 15 Lombard to Kelly Douglas 134 Abbott Street. Been going thru city directories and late 1940’s Nabob is listed at 134 Abbott. Saw nothing about Kelly Douglas at that location. Zink and Triest located in Philadelphia and that location has been redeveloped

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