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TheStreet Open House

10 Brand Names Gone, But Not Forgotten

Tab
As kids, many of us guzzled soda. It is no surprise then that cola brands trigger warm, fuzzy (and fizzy) memories.

Pepsi (PEP) tapped into such nostalgia recently when it made Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback, packaged with retro labeling and a made with real sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup (just like in the olden days).

Other brands we may recall fondly from years past include Shasta, RC Cola (now owned by the Dr Pepper Snapple Group (DPS)) and White Rock (which always makes us think of grandmothers and ginger ale).

So why our focus on Tab? It started the diet cola craze, for one (advertising slogans included: "A Beautiful Drink for Beautiful People" and "One Calorie -- Beautiful)."

The familiar pinkish can with simple white lettering has become a symbol of the 1970s aesthetic. TV shows and movies set during his era very often include a can somewhere in the scenes to add a touch of period-piece verisimilitude.

Alas, Tab in its original form had a hard fall from '70s stardom.

To start with, there was that whole cancer thing. To produce a tasty but low-calorie beverage, Tab included the artificial sweetener sodium saccharin. Tests on lab rats (that years later were debunked) led to a scare that the chemical could cause cancer. Those concerns led to mandatory, off-putting warning labels. (The FDA relented on the labels and admitted it goofed regarding saccharine in 2000.)

The bigger problem was the global power of the Coca-Cola (KO) name. Soon after its introduction in 1982 a product called Diet Coke became the soda standard for calorie-counters, and the company focused on it rather than its older Tab product.

Tab, which hit shelves in 1963, never regained its popularity. As more and more diet drinks hit the marketplace it became a bit of a footnote to the cola wars.

Nevertheless, it is still available in the U.S. if your grocer is inclined to carry it (something the website ILoveTab.com has started a petition to encourage). There is even a Tab Energy Drink launched by Coca-Cola in 2009. Within a year, it was deemed an underperformer and now is found in only a handful of countries, among them Canada, Fiji, Mexico and New Zealand.

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