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Coca Cola stops using Tab after almost 60 years

After nearly 60 years, Coca-Cola is discontinuing its first ever diet drink, Tab, which acquired a huge fan base in the 1970s and 1980s and has maintained a small but devoted following over the years.

“Tab has had an incredible run,” said Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition and longtime Tab enthusiast. Bixby said there were messages of condolence. “As a business decision I can understand that, but it’s a very sad day … I feel it’s like losing a friend.”

Tab is one of several “underperforming” products that Coca-Cola has said it plans to eliminate from its range of brands later this year as the company seeks to streamline production and focus on best sellers.
Coca-Cola isn̵
7;t alone in choosing its range of brands. Many food and beverage companies are reducing their product supply during the pandemic to make their operations more efficient and meet the growing demand for their most popular items.
The company said the beverage review was already underway before Covid-19, but the pandemic has prompted the company to speed up the changes. Coca-Cola had previously announced that Odwalla juices and Zico coconut water would be among the discontinued brands.

Bixby, who has remained loyal to Tab since the 1970s, said it was preparing for the end. He said he’s been auditioning diet colas all summer – way too sweet.

The calorie-free, saccharin-sweetened tablet was initially marketed for women. Some people familiar with the taste have described it in terms that include “bitter” and “like bad medicine”, with a persistent metallic aftertaste. Although Bixby said he preferred it to other diet colas because it was less sweet. “It wasn’t competing with things, so you could enjoy it with a meal.”

Tab’s growth was more or less cannibalized when Diet Coke entered the scene in 1982. But Coke kept the brand alive for years for its devotees.

In announcing the end of Tab, Coca-Cola noted that the category of zero-calorie fizzy drinks has changed significantly in recent years, both in terms of consumer base and preference. The retirement of products like Tab allows the company to invest in its powerful Diet Coke and Coke Zero brands.

“This is not an underlying efficiency game,” said Brad Spickert, senior vice president of innovation and marketing. “It’s a high-level growth game.”

Bixby says he’s drinking more diet ginger ale these days and hoping for some sort of Tab return as a novelty.

“I had a pretty good supply at the start of the pandemic,” he said. But earlier this year, he could no longer find Tab in stores or online. Now he has only two cans left. “I’ll probably drink one and save the other forever.”

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