After nearly 60 years, Coca-Cola is discontinuing its first-ever diet soda, Tab, which acquired a huge fan base in the ’70s and ’80s and maintained a small but devoted following through the years.
Tab is one of several “underperforming” products Coke has said it is eliminating from its brand lineup by the end of the year as the company seeks to streamline production and focus on bestsellers. Coke isn’t alone in culling its brand lineup, as food and beverage companies are cutting back on their product offerings during the pandemic to make their operations more efficient and meet growing demand for their most popular items.
The company said its beverage overhaul was already under way before Covid-19, but the pandemic prompted the company to fast-track changes. Coke previously announced that Odwalla juices and Zico coconut water would be among the discontinued brands.
The saccharine-sweetened, zero-calorie Tab was initially marketed to women. People familiar with the flavor have described it in terms including “bitter” and “like bad medicine,” with a metallic and lingering aftertaste.
Tab’s growth was more or less cannibalized when Diet Coke came on the scene in 1982. But Coke kept the brand alive for years for its devotees.
In announcing Tab’s end, Coke noted the zero-calorie sparkling beverage category has changed significantly in recent years, both in terms of its core consumer base and preferences. Retiring products Tab frees the company to invest in its powerhouse Diet Coke and Coke Zero brands.
“This is not a bottom-line efficiency play,” said Brad Spickert, senior vice president of innovation and commercialization. “It’s a top-line growth play.”