ATLANTA — TaB, Coca-Cola Co.'s original diet soft drink, is going down the drain.
Born in 1963 in an era of full-sugar drinks and originally aimed just at women, TaB became a pop culture touchstone. But sometimes even pop culture relics have to pay their way, especially in the midst of a pandemic that has hammered the finances of many companies, including Coke.
The Atlanta-based company on Friday said it's eliminating TaB as part of broader, sped-up efforts to drop underperforming products so it can focus on more promising ones.
Saccharine-sweetened TaB's stature grew in the 1980s. But it never generated the level of broad consumer appeal that eventually built around Diet Coke, one of the top three biggest-selling carbonated soft drinks in the United States, said Duane Stanford, the publisher and editor of Beverage Digest.
TaB's sales volumes have been gradually declining for years, despite pockets of fans. Last year it was down 16 percent in the U.S. compared to the year before, dropping to just 1.4 million cases, according to Beverage Digest. Diet Coke had about 636 million cases in the nation the same year.
"We're forever grateful to TaB for paving the way for the diets and lights category, and to the legion of TaB lovers who have embraced the brand for nearly six decades," said Kerri Kopp, group director, Diet Coke, Coca-Cola North America. "If not for TaB, we wouldn't have Diet Coke or Coke Zero Sugar. TaB did its job. In order to continue to innovate and give consumers the choices they want today, we have to make decisions like this one as part of our portfolio rationalization work."
Matt Kempner writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.