(“Devotees go far to keep tabs on diet pop,” The Columbus Dispatch, May 7, 2006 — by Ana Fisher)
Maybe youâ€™re too young to remember Space Food Sticks and Shake-a Puddâ€™n.
Thatâ€™s because those food fads, introduced around the summer of 1969, couldnâ€™t attract the necessary long-term market share.
Consumerproduct companies donâ€™t seem to mind. They just roll out the next crazy idea and hope it sticks long enough to make a profit to bankroll the next crazy idea.
What makes something stick? Loyalty, plain and simple. Thatâ€™s blind loyalty in the case of Tab.
Devotee Cindy Lazarus â€” a former Columbus City Council president, appeals court judge and now YWCA president and CEO â€” likened the flavor to “motor oil with a caffeine kick,” which makes that an interesting component of her daily life for three decades.
“The can design has changed slightly,” she said, “but itâ€™s always been that wonderfully identifiable pink. Thatâ€™s why I think the men who have this issue are bold, bold people. Any man who drinks it, he must be metro.”
Coca-Cola spokesman Scott Williamson said the company doesnâ€™t know a lot about who drinks Tab, except that itâ€™s a small but passionate lot, “which is why we continue to make it available.”
Local distributors make you work at maintaining a Tab habit. They donâ€™t stock the soft drink in most vending machines. Kroger is the only big supplier in town, according to Lazarus and others.
You canâ€™t get it in Cleveland.
If youâ€™re into Tab, chances are youâ€™re very into it. You know facts and figures, little details about your drink â€” when it was introduced (1963), movie trivia (Austin Powers drinks it) and what the acronym supposedly means (Totally Artificial Beverage).
Franklin County Administrator Don Brown shares the fetish with two neighbors, including Dr. John Lombardo, a former physician for the Ohio State football team.
“We have a mutual-aid pact,” Brown said. “If one of us runs out, the other two garages are always open if we need more.”
Tab shipments are golden.
“Thereâ€™s never enough, because it only goes on sale one time a month, so you have to time your supply so you have enough for work, home and when friends drop by,” he said.
Yes, they have friends and are even invited to neighborhood parties.
“You know what our job is then? To bring a cooler of youknow-what,” Brown said.
Of course, he knows about ILoveTaB.com, a Web site operated by a 31-year-old whose mother got her hooked on the juice more than 20 years ago.
Natalie “Tabalie” Kueneman, co-founder with Chris Cunningham, can quote chapter and verse of Tab lore.
She corresponded via email, but even through the ether, her solemnity was apparent when I asked if she was aware that some people donâ€™t know Tab is still available.
“Yes, the Coca-Cola Co. stopped all marketing in the late â€™80s, so most people think Tab was discontinued at that time.”
Her goal is to build loyalty for Tab, offsetting any effort to retire the liquid confection. She is marginally concerned about Tab Energy, a new sports drink.
Lazarus said the new drink might be a marketing ploy, an evil decoy.
“Thatâ€™s my great fear, that they will have a season or so of the new drink that will fail miserably, but in the process, they will eliminate” â€“ she paused, searching for the words â€“ “the nectar of the gods.”
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. ILoveTaB.com has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is ilovetab.com endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)