It was a cruel headline in the Wall Street Journal, “Tab is getting canned!”
For those of you under, say, age 40, TaB — as it is spelled on the can — was Coca-Cola’s answer to diet drinks back in 1963 when the Coke folks wouldn’t allow the Coke name to be used on any other soda.
Sixty years later, Tab is about to join such notable has-beens as Pepsi Blue, Crystal Pepsi, Jolt Cola and the Ford Edsel. I know, the Ford Edsel was not a drink, but the name just flowed when I was thinking of obsolete products.
I got to know Tab intimately when I first worked with Patty, a hospital dietitian by trade and our director of food service. If you worked with Patty, talked with Patty, visited with Patty, or were somewhat in proximity to Patty, you couldn’t help but notice the little pink can that always accompanied her.
Her faithful companion, Tab.
In the age of COVID-19, however, Tab had three strikes against it: a shortage of aluminum cans due to the pandemic, the evil chemical saccharine that gave it that unique aluminum aftertaste, and, of course, the introduction of Diet Coke, which stole all the diet soda drinkers.
Within minutes after CNN told me about the demise of Tab, I texted my sympathy to Patty who recently went into retirement to spoil her two grandbabies. It was a simple response, “I’m sorry, too,” she texted back, but I could feel her pain. Pain that is being felt — don’t smirk — across America.
Robert Bixby is a longtime Tab connoisseur. He is executive director of the Concord Coalition. That means his day job is ending deficit spending and promoting a balanced federal debt. When Coca-Cola announced the demise of Tab, Bixby told CNN that messages of condolences had been pouring in. “I do feel it’s like losing a friend,” he said.
He’s been “auditioning” replacement diet colas all summer, but everything he tries is too sweet. I guess nothing beats the “aluminum” tang of Tab.
Which got me to thinking, what other treasured brands of my youth are gone, gone, gone?
We used to spend Saturday afternoons hanging out at Sharper Image playing with all the trendy, expensive gadgets. We spent Saturday nights arguing with friends at Blockbuster over what movies to rent. All gone, gone, gone. We spent hours flipping through the dollar bargain bins at Tower Records looking for vinyl LPs to play on our three-speed record players. All gone, gone, gone along with our three-speed record player.
Burger Chef is gone, too. That was a fast-food restaurant just around the corner from my apartment. I would have starved without Burger Chef when I moved into that apartment and away from cheap dorm food. There were three cool things I remember about Burger Chef. One, it was less than a block away from our apartment — and gas was expensive for a college kid. Two, they may have been a fast-food burger emporium, but they had what they called a “topping station” where you could pile on the pickles, relish, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, mayo, ketchup and mustard on your burger. Yup, you could practically create a meal just from that “topping station.” Three, for every flame-broiled burger, they gave out a cardboard Star Wars character. I know, cheap, but I had friends who were fiendish Star Wars fans. Can you imagine what those cardboard characters would be worth today?
I can’t remember if they served Tab. All I know is they are gone, gone, gone.
The Tab connoisseur that I mentioned earlier, Bixby, claims to have stockpiled Tab. He is holding out hope for a Tab comeback. There may be hope after all. I found a website, ilovetab.com, dedicated to the proposition that viral social media can resurrect Tab. The webpage is a riot to read and a great lesson in how to market your injustice. “ilovetab” will link you to their Facebook page and Instagram postings. It will locate supplies of the stuff for you. There are 158 pages of post after post after post of Tab aficionados gushing over the taste, bemoaning the loss, and pledging their never-ending loyalty to the brand.
They post photos of themselves with their favorite beverage and tell of when they took their first sip. There is even a “FAQ” section answering questions you would never think of. And, of course, there is a “Sign the Save TaB” petition icon. I will admit it, I don’t drink the stuff. Tab tastes like carbonated Sweet and Low. I signed the petition anyway.
For Patty’s sake.