Tab (drink)

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Tab logo pink text.png
The Tab logo as of 2008[1]
TypeSoft drink
ManufacturerThe Coca-Cola Company
Country of originUnited States
Introduced1963; 58 years ago (1963)
DiscontinuedDecember 2020 (2020-12)
FlavorDiet cola
Related products

Tab (stylized as TaB) was a diet cola soft drink created and produced by The Coca-Cola Company, introduced in 1963 and discontinued in 2020. Coca-Cola's first diet drink,[2] Tab was popular throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Several variations were made, including a number of fruit-flavored, root beer, and ginger ale versions. Caffeine-free and clear variations were released in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Following studies in the early 1970s that linked saccharin, Tab's main sweetener, with bladder cancer in rats, the United States Congress mandated warning labels on products containing the sweetener. The label requirement was later repealed when no plausibility was found for saccharin causing cancer in humans.[3]

Tab's popularity declined after the Coca-Cola company's introduction of Diet Coke in 1982, though it remained the best-selling diet soda of that year.[4] Coca-Cola continued to produce Tab in the United States, though in considerably smaller quantities than its more popular mainstay beverages, such as Coca-Cola and Diet Coke. According to the company, three million cases of Tab were made in 2011,[5] and the beverage retained a cult following. In 2006, a Tab-branded energy drink was released, though it used a different formula from the standard cola. Coca-Cola discontinued Tab at the end of 2020.[6]


Tab was created in 1963 by Coca-Cola after the successful sales and marketing of Diet Rite cola, owned by The Royal Crown Company;[7] previously, Diet Rite had been the only sugarless soda on the market. Tab was marketed to consumers who wanted to "keep tabs" on their weight.[8][9]

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; the list was stripped of any words deemed unpronounceable or too similar to existing trademarks.[10] Of a final list of about twenty names, "Tabb" was chosen, influenced by the possible play on words, and shortened to "Tab" during development. Packaging designer Robert Sidney Dickens gave the name the capitalization pattern ("TaB") used in the logo as well as creating a new bottle design for the soft drink.[11]

For a time in the 1970s, Coca-Cola introduced six variety flavors of Tab (all of which were also sugar-free): Root Beer, Lemon-Lime, Ginger Ale, Black Cherry, Strawberry, and Orange.[12] A caffeine-free version of the original Tab flavor was introduced in 1983, alongside caffeine-free versions of Coca-Cola and Diet Coke.[13] Tab Clear, a caramel color-free version of Tab,[14] was released in the United States in 1992, and subsequently in the United Kingdom and Japan.[15][16] Tab Clear was discontinued in 1994.[14]

In 2006, Coca-Cola introduced Tab Energy. Though it shares the Tab branding, its formula is entirely different from that of the standard cola: it is sweetened with sucralose and has a sour, tart flavor.[17]

Saccharin safety debate[edit]

Early-1970s Tab can and a late-1970s can bearing the saccharin warning along the bottom

Tab has been reformulated several times. It was initially sweetened with a mixture of cyclamate and saccharin.[18] After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ban on cyclamate in 1969, sodium saccharin was used as the beverage's primary sweetener.[18]

Studies on laboratory rats during the early 1970s linked high volumes of cyclamate and saccharin with the development of bladder cancer. As a result, the United States Congress mandated that further studies of saccharin be performed and required that all food containing saccharin bear a label warning that the sweetener had been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. Despite this, Tab remained commercially successful and was the best-selling diet soda in 1982.[4] In May 1984, Coca-Cola introduced Nutrasweet into the Tab formula, which alienated a significant portion of its market, and resulted in numerous consumer complaints regarding a perceived change in flavor.[4]

In the absence of further evidence that saccharin caused cancer in humans, the substance was delisted in 2000 from the U.S. National Toxicology Program’s Report on Carcinogens; this led to the repealing of the warning label requirements for products containing saccharin.[19] In December 2010, the United States Environmental Protection Agency removed saccharin from its list of hazardous substances.[20]


Tab's popularity began to decline in 1982 with the introduction of Diet Coke, although Tab retained something of a cult following in the United States,[21] where customers purchased about 3 million cases in 2008.[9][5] In 2011, the Coca-Cola Company reported that they produced approximately 3 million cases of Tab that year (in contrast to the 885 million of Diet Coke).[5] John Sicher, editor of Beverage Digest, commented in 2013:

[Tab] has pockets of popularity around the country. You see it on shelves in New York and a few other places. It certainly is not a brand you would find in most stores in the U.S. It has a small but devoted following. Coke is right to keep it available.[5]

The product is also available in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Southern African Customs Union, Norway (under the name Tab X-Tra), Canada, and Spain.

Tab was available in Australia in the 1960s to 1980s. It was also sold in the United Kingdom from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s.

As part of their efforts to scale back on under-performing brands during the COVID-19 pandemic, in October 2020 Coca-Cola announced that it was discontinuing Tab.[22]

As of June 2021, Tab was still available at Coca-Cola stores in Atlanta, Orlando, and Las Vegas and available in select Georgia locations.[23]


Name Year
Notes Picture Ref.
Tab 1963 Original flavor. Sweetened with cyclamate-saccharin mixture upon release, but cyclamate was removed after 1969, and saccharin was the principal sweetener. In 1984, Nutrasweet was introduced to the formula. Tab can.jpg [5]
Tab Strawberry 1970s Strawberry flavored diet soda; sold for a time in the 1970s alongside other diet drinks using the Tab name. [12]
Tab Lemon-Lime 1970s Lemon-Lime flavored diet soda; sold for a time in the 1970s alongside other diet drinks using the Tab name. This is a predecessor to Sprite Zero, by which it likely was replaced. [12]
Tab Black Cherry 1970s Black-Cherry flavored diet soda; sold for a time in the 1970s alongside other diet drinks using the Tab name. [12]
Tab Root Beer 1970s Sugar-free root beer; sold for a time in the 1970s alongside other diet drinks using the Tab name. [12]
Tab Ginger Ale 1970s Sugar-free ginger ale; sold for a time in the 1970s alongside other diet drinks using the Tab name. [12]
Tab Orange 1970s Sugar-free orange soda; sold for a time in the 1970s alongside other diet drinks using the Tab name. This is a predecessor to Fanta Zero, which was launched in the early 2000s. [12]
Caffeine Free Tab 1983 Original Tab flavor without the caffeine. It was sold during the 80s and vanished soon after. [13]
Tab Clear 1992 Clear diet cola. Was first sold in the U.S. and later to the UK and Japan, and was discontinued within a year. TaB Clear can.jpg [16]
Tab (Southern African Customs Union variant) 1990s In these countries, Tab uses a different recipe compared to Spain and the U.S., where it is a caffeine-free drink, and uses less carbonation. The areas this can be found are Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Eswatini. Tab Cola (4186648047).jpg [24]
Tab X-Tra 1994 A Norwegian version of Tab with a different name, made to compete with Pepsi Max in the country. It was also sold in Sweden and Finland, but the drink was discontinued in Sweden in 2007 and discontinued in Finland at an earlier date. After 2007, it was exclusively sold in Norway until it was discontinued in 2021.[25] TAB X-Tra.jpg [26]
Tab Energy 2006 A Tab-branded energy drink which uses an entirely different recipe from the cola. It was also sold in Mexico, New Zealand and Spain, where it is called Tab Fabulous. TabEnergy.jpg [17]


  1. ^ Capsule (Firm) (2008). Design Matters: Packaging 01: An Essential Primer for Today's Competitive Market. Beverly, Massachusetts: Rockport Publishers. p. 146. ISBN 978-1592533428. OCLC 191024079.
  2. ^ Walker, Andrea (July 7, 2005). "First there was Diet Rite, then Tab and Diet Pepsi. In 1982, Diet Coke arrived on the scene. Now, with Coke Zero, the latest entry on the market, it's a real..." The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Are Artificial Sweeteners Safe for People With Diabetes?". Cleveland Clinic. 29 June 2015. Archived from the original on 2016-10-02.
  4. ^ a b c Belkin, Lisa (10 October 1984). "Tab soda drinkers miss familiar taste". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e Truman, Cheryl (22 April 2013). "TaB turns 50: Those Who Love the Fizzy Diet Cola Celebrate". Coca-Cola Company. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  6. ^ "PBS NewsHour Weekend Full Episode December 19, 2020" – via
  7. ^ Siegel, Benjamin (June 2006). "Sweet Nothing—The Triumph of Diet Soda". American Heritage. Archived from the original on 21 June 2006.
  8. ^ "Product Descriptions: Tab". The Coca-Cola Company. Archived from the original on 26 June 2012.
  9. ^ a b "Cult sodas with a history: Tab". Fortune. October 2009.
  10. ^ Mead, Linda T. (2002). Investing With Giants: Tried and True Stocks That Have Sustained the Test of Time. John Wiley & Sons. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-471-27158-1.
  11. ^ "The TaB bottle". Beach Packaging Design. 29 November 2012.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g MeTV Staff (15 January 2018). "In the 1970s, Coca-Cola also tried to expand its diet soda with a variety of Tab flavors". MeTV. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  13. ^ a b Lueck, Thomas J. (29 April 1983). "Coke Brands Join No-Caffeine Fray". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  14. ^ a b Bhasin, Kim (6 June 2012). "16 Failed Soda Brands You'll Never See Again". Business Insider Australia. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  15. ^ Bryant, Adam (15 December 1992). "COMPANY NEWS; Coke Adds a Clear Cola To Its 'New Age' Stable". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  16. ^ a b The Associated Press (19 January 1993). "COMPANY NEWS; Tab Clear is introduced in Britain". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  17. ^ a b Morford, Mark (8 March 2006). "Tab Energy Kills You Dead / The famously toxic retro cola nails women with a new, pink energy drink. Because you love it". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2 April 2018 – via SFGate.
  18. ^ a b Lindop, Edmund (2009). America in the 1960s. Twenty-First Century Books. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-761-33453-8.
  19. ^ "Artificial Sweeteners and Cancer". National Cancer Institute. 18 August 2005. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  20. ^ "Removal of Saccharin from the Lists of Hazardous Constituents and Hazardous Wastes under RCRA and from the List of Hazardous Substances under CERCLA". United States Environmental Protection Agency. Archived from the original on 29 October 2015.
  21. ^ McGrath, Ben (6 February 2006). "Tab Scare". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  22. ^ Maloney, Jennifer (October 16, 2020). "Tab, Coca-Cola's Diet-Soda Pioneer and a '70s Icon, Is Going Away". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  23. ^ "Tab". Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  24. ^ "How much caffeine is in a Coca-Cola?". Coca-Cola Africa. Retrieved 1 April 2018. We know that not everyone drinks caffeine and not everyone wants to drink it all the time, so we also offer a range of caffeine-free beverages, including TAB so people can make the choice for themselves and their families.
  25. ^ "Aldri mer Tab X-tra". (in Norwegian Bokmål). 2021-11-01. Retrieved 2021-12-01.
  26. ^ "TAB X-tra®". Coca-Cola Norway (in Norwegian). Retrieved 1 April 2018.

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