The Real Reason Coke Just Discontinued Tab

In 1963, Coca-Cola introduced its first diet soda, calling it "Tab" stylized as "TaB." Despite a popular rumor, the name wasn't meant to stand for "totally artificial beverage" (via Snopes). In the 1970s, the one-calorie soda took off as a drink for weight-conscious people. Coca-Cola marketed it "for beautiful people," as the 70s jingle went (via The Wall Street Journal). (We'd all rather pretend the creepy 1960s peeping-Tom ad, which implored women to "Be a mindsticker," never existed.) By 1980, Tab ruled as queen of all the diet sodas, in terms of sales. Now, after 57 years, Coca-Cola said it is discontinuing the beverage by the end of this year. The decision is part of Coca Cola's larger plan to eliminate more than half of its 500 products in order to streamline operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reports of Tab's demise mention that soda drinkers either loved it or hated it and Twitter reactions verify that. Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, took to his official Twitter account to mourn a little: "We've withstood so many of the difficulties and disruptions that 2020 has thrown our way, but this is a really big blow." Twitter user Tony Matthew might have overstated the magnitude of the Tab news when he tweeted, "This is an tragedy of epic proportions." Chuck Nowlin was less sentimental on Twitter: "Will you miss the classic taste of carbonated, metallic, cough syrup?"

Diet Coke surpassed Tab quickly, but Coca-Cola kept Tab around

Other responses on Twitter to the Tab news weren't happy or sad. Some people were just bowled over by Tab's irrelevance. Clifford Smith tweeted, "Huh?!?! I thought it was discontinued 30 years ago." Matthew FitzSimmons tweeted, "The 1978 version of my mom is mad as hell today."

Coca-Cola made a taste upgrade when it introduced Diet Coke in 1982 and added aspartame to the formula in 1983 (via The Wall Street Journal). By the end of 1983, Diet Coke was already the fourth-bestselling soft drink in the U.S., and Tab was already becoming irrelevant. By 2001, Tab had less than a 1-percent share of the soft drink market. Then Coke Zero landed on store shelves in 2005 (via Beverage Daily), giving Coca-Cola three diet colas to market. But the company continued to make Tab because the drink's devoted fans would protest whenever they couldn't find their beloved soda. Recently, Tab's market share was almost microscopic. While Diet Coke had a 35 percent share of the diet soda market in 2019, Tab's slice of that pie was 0.1 percent.

Tab isn't alone on the Coca-Cola chopping block. During the pandemic, Coca-Cola already gave the ax to Odwalla and is phasing out Zico coconut water. Some obscure soda flavors are also going away in 2020, including Diet Coke Feisty Cherry, Sprite Lymonade, and Coke Life. We're guessing some people won't miss these as much as Tab.