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Tab lovers hope to convince Coca-Cola to revive the once popular diet soda

Rodney Ho, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in News & Features

Coca-Cola discontinued its once groundbreaking Tab diet soda three years ago and a hardy group of fans are actively trying to get the company to bring it back to retail shelves.

Last month, on a sunny fall Friday, a dozen of them from all over the country gathered at the World of Coca-Cola Museum and handed over a petition with 6,500 names and several handwritten pleas to a Coke executive, who came over from headquarters less than a mile away.

“We thought it would be fun to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Tab in Atlanta,” said Adam Burbach, a 41-year-old Lincoln, Nebraska resident who organized the trip.

The group went on a VIP tour of the museum, then spent more than 30 minutes in the dispensary room featuring hundreds of sodas from around the world. Why? There also happened to be six dispensers of Tab.

It’s one of the few places left in the world to actually taste Tab besides a Coca-Cola store in Las Vegas and Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Most of the Tab lovers had long run out of their own supply and imbibed the drink from tiny sample plastic cups with wistful satisfaction.

“Our tour guide guaranteed us there was Tab and we were like, ‘Woohoo!’,” said Jenny Boyter, a retired school administrator from Buckhead who dressed in a Tab can outfit and handed out fans saying “I’m a Tab fan!” She also held a party for the Tab acolytes at her home the night before featuring Tab cookies, buttons, candles and Christmas ornaments.

 

Tab, which is often stylistically dubbed TaB, was created by Coca-Cola in 1963 targeted squarely at women. It was one of the first diet carbonated drinks on the market. At first, Tab used cyclamate as a sweetener, which the FDA banned in 1969 after evidence it caused cancer in lab animals. The formula then switched to saccharin.

With its pink motif, “Great taste. One calorie. TAB” slogan and “Beautiful People” jingle, the drink built a solid niche following over the next couple of decades, peaking at a 5.6% market share in 1980 among all soda drinks in the United States, according to Beverage Digest.

In 1982, Coca-Cola introduced Diet Coke, which immediately stole Tab’s thunder with a taste that was palatable to a broader audience. Tab’s sales dropped steadily over the next 38 years. By 2019, Tab sold just 1.4 million cases, according to Beverage Digest, compared to 636 million cases of Diet Coke. Younger generations are only dimly aware of Tab, if at all.

Indeed, Burbach, the organizer of the Save Tab committee, was the youngest person who came to World of Coke that day. Most folks were in their 50s and 60s.

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©2023 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Visit at ajc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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