Tab Stab

Coca-Cola recently announced that it will stop making Tab diet soda. Coke also announced that it will stop making “ZICO Coconut Water,” “Coca-Cola Life,” and “Odwalla,” none of which I’d ever heard of, much less tasted. But Tab? Tab hits home.

Hearing that Tab is being discontinued is kind of like hearing news of the death of an Hollywood star from long ago who you assumed had died long ago. You feel sad but also somewhat surprised that the person was still around. Not having had a Tab in decades, I assumed that it had gone to the great soft drink graveyard in the sky long ago.

Tab was a staple of the Webner household when I was growing up. Tab was the first diet drink introduced by Coca-Cola, and the first food item of any kind that I remember seeing advertised as a “diet” option. Mom fought a long, desperate twilight struggle to keep her weight down, so Tab was a natural item to add to the family refrigerator. With its kicky, quasi-psychedelic logo and flourescent can, Tab was very much a product of the ’60s. It was made the saccharine as the sugar substitute and became enormously popular in the ’70s, when dieting really took off, but then faded away find after Coke introduced Diet Coke and began pushing that beverage in lieu of Tab.

I’ve quaffed a Tab or two in my lifetime, the most recent time probably being while playing Pong on the Atari system we had in the family room of our split-level house, and I recall it as having a distinctive, almost peculiar taste. Not bad, necessarily, or good, either, for that matter, just . . . distinctive. You got used to it, and some people got almost addicted to it. Tab had its devoted fans who kept the brand alive when most people had forgotten it and it accounted for a tiny fraction of Coke’s total beverage sales. I knew one person who kept cases of Tab in his office and drank one with every lunch, which incidentally consisted of the same sandwich from Subway.

People who crave that unique Tab flavor are very sad these days, and are probably scrambling to use the internet to buy up as much of the product as they can in order to build up a lifetime supply. For the rest of us who lived with Tab long ago, we give a wistful salute to another childhood product that we will see no more.

Skinny Cans

Kish went out to the grocery store the other day and came back with some Diet Coke — but it doesn’t look like any Diet Coke I’ve ever seen before.  This version is packaged in much taller and skinnier cans than were previously used.  The cans are almost as tall as your standard bottle of bottled water and about a third skinnier in diameter.

The redesign of the Diet Coke can seems like smart marketing to me.  If you’re trying to sell your product to people who are watching their calories, why not design a package that fits better with the known aspirations of the purchaser?  If you were hoping to lose a few pounds and were buying some Diet Coke as part of that process, which product design would be more appealing to you:  the squat, sturdy cans that used to be the standard, or these new cans that are notably willowy and elegant by comparison?  Would you rather take a swig from a thickset, brick-like can, or grasp a cool, slender can that looks like it might float away on a light breeze?  I’m guessing that the marketing tests that inevitably were part of the process of rolling out the new can design showed that a lot of purchasers preferred the decidedly leaner cans because the purchasers are hoping to be decidedly leaner, too, one of these days.

When I saw the new Diet Coke cans it reminded me of the introduction of Virginia Slims cigarettes years ago.  Virginia Slims were considerably longer, and skinnier, than standard-sized cigarettes; they almost looked like you were using a cigarette holder.  The advertising campaign for the new brand inevitably showed lissome, obviously sophisticated women clad in evening gowns having their Virginia Slims being lit by handsome gentlemen in tuxedos at elegant parties.  The slenderness of the cigarettes was a consciously planned part of the product — as the name of the brand confirmed — and it was all designed to capture the aspirations of a segment of the smokers’ market.

I don’t know if they still sell Virginia Slims, but I’m guessing the new Diet Coke design will be a success.  If you want to be thinner, why not buy thinner?

Now, what’s with the ginger-lime flavor of this product that Kish brought home?