Coca-Cola discontinues TaB diet soda in the US

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

TaB's popularity peaked in the 80s, but today Diet Coke & Zero Sugar are the strongest sugar-free brands. Pic: Coca-Cola.
TaB's popularity peaked in the 80s, but today Diet Coke & Zero Sugar are the strongest sugar-free brands. Pic: Coca-Cola.

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TaB – The Coca-Cola Company’s first ever diet soft drink launched in 1963 – will be discontinued in the US as the company continues to streamline its SKUs.

In the US, the company is also chopping Odwalla​, Zico​ coconut water, Coca-Cola Life and Diet Coke Feisty Cherry, as well as regional offerings like Northern Neck Ginger Ale and Delaware Punch. In Coca-Cola’s international portfolio, Vegitabeta (Japan) and Kuat (Brazil) will also be discontinued.

Coca-Cola says it is retiring underperforming products in order to prioritize those with the greatest potential for growth and scale.

'If not for TaB, we wouldn't have Diet Coke'  

TaB was launched in 1963 as Coca-Cola’s first-ever diet soft drink and precursor of some of Coca-Cola’s biggest diet drinks today (“if not for TaB, we wouldn’t have Diet Coke or Coke Zero Sugar”, ​says Coca-Cola).

Initially marketed to women, the saccharine-sweetened, zero-calorie soda became popular in the 1980s and has maintained a small following over the last few decades, primarily among fans who grew up with the brand. TaB is also sold in South Africa.

Despite its legacy, TaB has ‘done its job’ and will be retired in light of a zero-calorie sparkling beverage category that has changed significantly in recent years. Coca-Cola’s focus is now on Diet Coke and Coke Zero Sugar (Zero Sugar, for example, enjoyed double-digit growth both in the US and globally last year).

Although Coca-Cola’s pledge to ‘kill the zombies’​ in its portfolio pre-dates the pandemic, COVID-19 has sped up the need to cut off underperforming products​ and focus efforts on those with the best chance of success.

Brands have been assessed on the basis of whether they have a ‘track record of sequential, incremental growth’.

Cath Coetzer, global head of innovation and marketing operations, The Coca-Cola Company, says the company has not set out to cut a specific number of products: rather, it’s about “continuing to follow the consumer and being very intentional in deciding which of our brands are most deserving of our investments and resources - and also taking the tough but important steps to identify those products that are losing relevance and therefore should exit the portfolio.”

Cuts are also being made across the portfolio to reduce the number of SKUs in terms of packaging formats, although Coca-Cola has not specified which lines are affected.

Coca-Cola champions this streamlining as a way to free up resources for growing brands such as Topo-Chico Hard Seltzer​ (launching in the first half of 2021), Coca-Cola Energy​ , AHA flavored sparkling water​ ​Minute Maid and Simply.

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