I can’t remember the first glass of TaB I ever had, but it was likely a warm summer day.
My sister Pam had a 16-ounce bottle with starburst designs of yellow-gold and white on the textured glass. In my memory, she was folding laundry from a wicker basket while watching a daytime soap. Super cool. In fact, cool doesn’t begin to touch those moments in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.
TaB was Coca-Cola’s first diet pop. Since 1963, it was steadfast through every change in the world from the superficial — bell bottoms and beaded curtains — to the substantial — job and career changes. COVID-19 has changed a lot of cultural things. Now it also ended TaB’s long run.
"But Coca-Cola made missteps before. New Coke anyone? So I’m holding on to a sliver of hope."
On its website,
“Let's Raise a Glass
“Since 1963, you've been with us through it all: from diners to drive-ins, and even to discos. You helped usher in the era of a new kind of soft drink - zero calories, but a whole lot of flavor (and fun).
“As we reshape our beverage portfolio at The Coca-Cola Company, we won't be seeing our pink pioneer on shelves anymore. But the cult-favorite lives on as a cultural mainstay - and as a classic soda that is impossible to forget. Check back soon as we look back on the last 57 years of TaB.”
2020 — enough said.
Could this year be worse? Well, one shouldn’t tempt fate even if it only has a day left to wreak havoc. At least not this year.
Coca-Cola, challenged as all businesses have been during the pandemic, cut into its loyal customers. They had a product they didn’t need to advertise to sell. But the company decided to reduce its brands by half to 200, CBS News reported. TaB was on that list.
But Coca-Cola made missteps before. New Coke anyone? So I’m holding on to a sliver of hope that they’ll be nostalgic and think of selling 1.5 million cases as a good thing, even if that’s a drop in the proverbial bucket out of its 6 billion beverages sold overall.
C’mon Coca-Cola, don’t add to the misery this year. There isn’t a viable replacement. Coke Zero doesn’t have the bite, the flavor, the lasting fizz. All of those things that made TaB last all these decades as a beverage and an icon.
The day in October where Coca-Cola announced this dreadful decision to end TaB in December of 2020 launched news stories on the beverage from every corner of media, from The Wall Street Journal to Thrillist.
“2020 strikes again,” Thrillist reported on Oct. 16. “On Friday, Coca-Cola announced a scale-back in inventory in order to direct its resources toward brands with the biggest growth potential. That means that by December 31, 2020, a handful of beverages in the Coca-Cola family will cease to be, including ZICO coconut water, Diet Coke Feisty Cherry, and TaB, the company's first-ever diet soda that's long been hanging on for dear life with the help of a small-but-enthusiastic group of self-proclaimed ‘TaBaholics.’"
My phone and social media feeds instantly flooded with sympathetic messages. Moments of silence, sympathy support — all on the offering. I received copies of The Wall Street Journal article. And texts came in about it:
“Oh no!! I just saw this article — what are you going to do?!”
And I still don’t know.
I actually can’t remember a day when I didn’t have a TaB at hand — through high school, college, jobs. When I worked at a resort near a small town, the independent local grocer added it to their shelves just for my consumption. When local chain groceries were putting any number of questionable beverages on the limited shelves but not enough TaB, friends came in handy to push for ample quantities of those pink cans. My brother always had a 12-pack on hand for visits. After 9/11 meant I could no longer bring TaB with me on a flight, in a recent visit to Denver to see family, my great niece had one to hand me when I arrived in the main terminal. A welcome sight of family and a cold beverage in the pink can. Perfect.
When Target had TaB T-shirts for sale, I think I got three of them as gifts. All welcome additions. What better to give a Tabaholic besides cartons of the beverage itself.
There were trendy moves along the way. TaB Clear when colorless pop was a thing. And TaB Energy drink in a cute can with polka dots with a pink-colored kind of tart liquid inside. But they came and went while regular TaB was all that really was needed.
After stocking up with carton after carton in the spring in anticipation of a shortage with a coronavirus disruption in the supply chain, I had enough TaB to set up a small store. I keep one untouched can in my fridge and at my desk just as a safety valve.
When my hoarded supply dwindled, Theresa Bourke, Dispatch staff writer, introduced me to the wonders of Ebay, where apparently prescient people hoarded TaB to sell to the desperate at considerable markup — anywhere from $25 for something that once cost $5 to more than $80 for a fridge pack. There were hosts of buyers looking to replenish supplies even for a short time. Finding TaB at all after a drought might have made me overlook the shipping charge — at least once. A newbie no longer, I’m wise to those Ebay ways now. Those ordered cartons faithfully arrive from far-off exotic places like New York and Florida with the 12-packs encased in bubble wrap for the journey. A tenuous link to a post-TaB dystopian future.
On its website, Coca-Cola states it plans a tribute at some point but in the meantime TaB faithful go here — to a TaB store of T-shirts, caps, hooded sweatshirts, mugs and cellphone cases. But no TaB.
I’m keeping hope alive for Coca-Cola to come back to a pre-COVID-19 idea of at least saving TaB and not just selling memorabilia. Until then, I’ve got a few cases left. When my supply is finally running short I’ll have to decide what occasions warrant the satisfying sound of cracking open a can — birthdays, a New Year’s toast, the end of the world.