What Happened to TaB Soda? Where Did It Go?

As any good student of 1980s film knows, when Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) goes into a diner after being transported backwards to the ‘50s, he orders a TaB. The exasperated diner owner informs him that if he wants a tab, he has to order something first. So, we know that TaB is something that they drank in the ‘80s but not the ‘50s, and it’s involved in some hilarious wordplay hijinx. But beyond that, what is TaB? Who made TaB? And, do they still make TaB, or would we need a time machine much like Marty McFly to sample it? Let’s find out.

What is TaB soda?

TaB soda was a diet cola introduced in 1963. It was one of the original diet sodas, sweetened with saccharin instead of sugar, and it came in an iconic red can. 

Who made TaB soda?

TaB was made by none other than the Coca-Cola Company (ever heard of them?). TaB was Coke’s diet cola before Diet Coke. Back when TaB was introduced, Coca-Cola didn’t like the idea of tarnishing its iconic brand name with other, lesser sodas. So, when they wanted to get into the diet soda game, they brought out a new name: TaB. They obviously abandoned this way of thinking once Diet Coke, and later Coke Zero, came along. 

Why was it called TaB?

There are theories that TaB stands for things like “thin and beautiful” or “totally artificial beverage.” Or even that it’s called TaB because it helps people keep “tabs” on their weight. But none of that is true. According to TaB’s wikipedia page: “Coca-Cola’s marketing research department used its IBM 1401 computer to generate a list of over 185,000 four-letter words with one vowel, adding names suggested by the company’s own staff…Of a final list of about twenty names, ‘Tabb’ was chosen [and later shortened].” That’s right! This product was named thanks to a giant, 1960s computer. I guess machines have always been coming for our creative jobs. 

What does TaB soda taste like?

At one point, TaB came in a variety of flavors—root beer, lemon lime, orange, black cherry, ginger ale, and strawberry. But when it comes to classic TaB, the obvious comparison point is Diet Coke. They are both, after all, diet colas made by the Coca-Cola company. However, Diet Coke is sweetened with aspartame, while TaB was sweetened with saccharin. Some defenders say that TaB tasted closer to the original Coca-Cola recipe, but others found Diet Coke to be a much more palatable option. 

What happened to TaB soda?

Diet Coke happened. Because TaB was a diet cola created by the Coca-Cola company, it never really stood a chance once the company put its weight behind a diet product with the Coke name on it. That being said, TaB continued to have its devoted fans who preferred the flavor to its Coca-Cola cousins. The soda company continued to produce batches of TaB soda all the way up until 2020 when they officially discontinued it. 

Do they still make TaB soda?

Alas, there is no longer any TaB soda on the market. Of course, soda companies being what they are, and nostalgia being what it is, it’s always possible that they’ll bring back TaB someday for a limited run. But for now, you’re not going to find it on grocery store or gas station shelves.

Can you still buy TaB soda?

Officially, no. But if you’re dying to sample a TaB soda and money is no object, this is basically what sites like eBay were made for. Browsing through the listings at the moment, it looks like it’ll run you about 20 to 30 dollars per can.

About the Author

Matt Crowley

Matt Crowley is a comedy writer living in Los Angeles. He likes maple-flavored snacks, loves every kind of cheese, and is slowly learning to accept mushrooms.

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