Fans lament the end of Tab, Coke's first diet soda: 'This is sad. End of an era'

Tab, Coke’s first-ever diet soda, is officially being discontinued after 57 years. Coca-Cola announced that it was planning to eliminate some of its “zombie brands” Friday and Tab was deemed one of the undead beverages that will no longer be in circulation by the end of the year.

“We’re challenging ourselves to think differently about our brands to accelerate our transformation to a total beverage company,” said Cath Coetzer, global head of innovation and marketing operations, The Coca-Cola Company. “This isn’t about paring down to a specific number of product offerings under our brands.”

Cans of Tab.
Cans of Tab. (Photo: Ramin Talaie/Corbis via Getty Images)

The drink was first introduced as a response to the success of Diet Rite Cola, as Coke felt they needed its own sugarless drink on the market. The name was based around the idea of people wanting to “keep tabs” on their weight, though it was originally named “Tabb” after an IBM 1401 computer generated a list of more than 185,000 four-letter words with one vowel. The second “b” was dropped during development.

Throughout the 70s, Tab was a popular drink for the Coke brand but in 1982 the introduction of Diet Coke caused its sales to drop significantly and it never really recovered.

However, it did manage to maintain a small yet extremely devoted following of customers who preferred it to Diet Coke or other diet beverages due to its unique flavor, which is significantly less sweet than most other diet drinks on the market at the time and to this day.

Several Tab enthusiasts said bittersweet goodbyes to the product online, with many sharing author Molly Jong-Fast’s feeling when she said the moment felt like “the end of my youth.”

Others even expressed anger about the decision, saying that Coca-Cola was giving up on the drink rather than attempting any sort of rebrand to give it a resurgence in popularity.

Natalie Kueneman, the founder of the website, spoke to Business Insider about her disappointment, noting that it was a beloved alternative for people who did not like more mainstream diet drinks. "People feel differently about Tab than they do about other drinks — very devoted," Kueneman told BI. even has a petition up to try and save the drink and has nearly 3,000 entries so far.

And, since this is the internet, there were obviously memes celebrating Tab and mourning its impending extinction.

Of course, Tab is hardly the first snack or beverage to be taken to a farm upstate despite a cult following. People were similarly outraged when General Mills discontinued French Toast Crunch and 90s kids felt their childhood being ruined when Nestle stopped making WonderBalls in 2004. And who could forget Surge, Coke’s attempt to compete with Mountain Dew, that was introduced in 1996 only to be permanently shelved seven years later?!

But there are some happy endings for discontinued tasty treats, most notably Planters bringing back Cheez Balls in 2018 after more than a decade of outcry from fans. M&M’s also resurrected its Crispy style after it was gone for several years. Perhaps someday Tab will be similarly revived. After all, if there’s one thing we know about zombies, they never stay dead for too long...

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