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In memoriam: Tab, 1963-2020

Cans of Tab
Cans of Tab
Photo: Ramin Talaie (Getty Images)

In the years before Diet Coke became an international institution, the greatest diet soda in the world was Tab. Do you remember the scene in Back To The Future where ’80s kid Marty McFly, newly arrived in 1955, asks for a Tab at the diner and gets told by the counterman that he has to order something first? That was funny, right?

Now the meaning of that joke will be lost to future generations because Coca-Cola has announced that it is discontinuing Tab and other “underperforming products” at the end of the year. Some of you may be saying, “Tab is still around?” But yes, friends, it is. It may not be as widely available as Coke or Diet Coke, but it’s still sold in pockets of the United States and abroad and retains a devoted cult following, which includes Takeout editor-in-chief Marnie Shure.

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Tab was created in 1963. Its name is an acronym for “tasty aerated beverage,” and it was marketed to customers who wanted to “keep tabs” on their weight. By the 1970s, it had become one of the country’s most popular soft drinks, although it had to rejigger its formula several times after one of its original sweeteners, cyclamate, was banned by Congress and another, saccharine, was believed to cause cancer. Its popularity began to decline, however, after Diet Coke was introduced in 1982.

Kerri Kopp, group director of Diet Coke, Coca-Cola North America, eulogized Tab in a press release:

We’re forever grateful to TaB for paving the way for the diets and lights category, and to the legion of TaB lovers who have embraced the brand for nearly six decades. If not for TaB, we wouldn’t have Diet Coke or Coke Zero Sugar. TaB did its job. In order to continue to innovate and give consumers the choices they want today, we have to make decisions like this one as part of our portfolio rationalization work.

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Also disappearing will be Odwalla, Coca-Cola Life, Diet Coke Feisty Cherry, Northern Neck Ginger Ale, and Delaware Punch. It is survived by its siblings Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Dasani, Fanta, etc., etc., etc.

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

I’m bummed about Odwalla shutting down. I have fond memories of drinking Odwalla when I lived in Santa Cruz circa 1991. Everything was fresh-squeezed and had a shelf life of about 4 days. The orange juice, lemonade, and strawberry lemonade were all wonderful.

I can still remember this TaB commercial.

Did you know that Fresca is still around?