Tab was Coca-Cola’s first diet drink, released in 1963. Since then, diet drinks have made great strides—Coca-Cola itself moved on to Diet Coke in 1982 and Coke Zero in 2005. Still, that original Tab still has its devotees, even as its artificial sweetener cocktail (which still contains saccharine) can strike some drinkers as tasting more like chemicals than cola.
As The New York Times reports, “Tabaholics” are in a frenzy after “their favorite fizzy drink had been whisked off shelves from Cincinnati to Charlotte, N.C.,” sparking speculation that Coke had cancelled the beverage outright. While the company maintains that’s not true, bottler and distributor Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated admits it’s discontinued Tab in stores in parts of its 14-state territory, including Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina and Washington, D.C. This has led Tab devotees in those areas to stockpiles cans and cases while searching for supplies online, paying as much as $40 for a case.
Still, Tab has been on an inevitable decline since Diet Coke’s introduction: The Times says that according to news reports, “by 2011, only three million cases of Tab were made, compared with 885 million cases of Diet Coke”; less than half of that is sold now. But those Tab lovers are so attuned to years of their favorite beverage that they refuse to switch, even to the superior (to these tastebuds) flavor of Diet Coke and nearly-tasting-like-the-real-thing Coke Zero. So they are drafting online petitions, collecting Facebook comments, and demanding that their local stores bring Tab back. Calvin Boyd, 51, tells the Times, “We’ve been through this before. We know what to do.”