“Dwindling supply has TaB fanatics searching everywhere for their cola” – by Courtney McCann

(“Dwindling supply has TaB fanatics searching everywhere for their cola,” Press of Atlantic City, May 7, 2006 — by Courtney McCann)

Lolly Yocum will travel to the ends of the earth in search of an endangered species: her beloved TaB soda.

The Lansdale, Pa., doll maker has a summer house in Little Egg Harbor Township, but she spends more time traveling the Garden State Parkway trolling for soft drinks than enjoying the summer sun.

“During the summer months, I go on TaB-buying journeys that take me from Manahawkin to Atlantic City looking for my beloved drink,� Yocum said. “No other drink can compare.�

Carolyn Bryant of Smithville, Galloway Township, also has an all-points bulletin out for the elusive pink can.

“I know they have it in Virginia, so I have my brother looking for it there, and I’ve had friends bring it back for me when they go out of state on trips,â€� Bryant said. “But it’s nowhere around here. I’ve even called up to Lakewood and Toms River, but no one has it.â€�

TaB, introduced by the Coca-Cola company in 1963, was the market’s first major, sugar-free diet cola. The saccharin-sweetened drink — which tastes like watered down Diet Coke with a less metallic flavor, according to Yocum — was marketed to people who were keeping “tabâ€� on their weight.

The soda hit its stride in the 1970s, but declined when Diet Coke was introduced in 1982, leaving behind a multitude of dedicated fans.

Now, TaB junkies such as Yocum and Bryant are in trouble. The Philadelphia Coca-Cola bottling company, which supplies southern New Jersey stores with Coke products, has not bottled any TaB since March, according to Chuck Muth, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the bottling company. Nationwide, the company is marketing a new drink, TaB Energy, a five-calorie concoction that includes everything from vegetable juice (for color) to ginseng extract. It’s being touted by the company as “created specifically for women with a sense of style and purpose,â€� and it’s clearly an attempt to get a foothold in the booming energy drink market. To the TaB faithful, the new drink doesn’t deserve the name.

“To me it’s entirely different,â€� Bryant said. “I will drink it. But it’s not the same as the original TaB.â€�

“I’ve been calling the Philadelphia bottling company to find out what happened (to the original TaB),â€� Bryant said. “And I’m not alone. The person I spoke to said he’s getting 20 to 50 calls a day regarding TaB.â€�

TaB junkies have been able to unite online thanks to forensics specialist Natalie Kueneman and software engineer Chris Cunningham, who started ILoveTaB.com, a fan page devoted to the low-cal cola, while attending Duke University in 1996.

The site includes photos of TaB junkies, retro ads from TaB’s heyday and a Tab Addicts Hall of Fame. But mostly it’s a place for TaB junkies to trade information on the best place to find their beloved soft drink. The recent wave of bottling companies discontinuing TaB has prompted Kueneman to post a “Save TaBâ€� petition on her Web site.

“It is extremely important for TaB drinkers to let their bottlers know they love TaB and want them to continue making it,â€� Kueneman said. “Once it’s discontinued in an area, it’s too late.â€� [emphasis added by ILoveTaB.com]

Yocum, who is known as “The TaB Lady� at her grocery store in Lansdale, used to be able to get cases of her soft drink regularly there. During the summer of 2005, she was even able to get the Acme supermarket in Tuckerton to keep it in stock for her.

“I went in around Memorial Day weekend and said that I came in all the time, and it would be nice to be able to find TaB there all the time,� Yocum said. “They said they would make sure they had it, and they stood by it. I was able to get it all summer.�

This year, it’s a different story.

“When I couldn’t get TaB here any more, I called the Philadelphia company and they tried to sell me on all kinds of other Coke products, but I told them I just want TaB,â€� Yocum said. “I’ll have to start going out to Lehigh, Pa., to get it. I’ve also heard reports of it being up north, so I’ll check there, too.â€�

Bryant is not above shadowing the Coca-Cola deliverymen when she sees them in her local grocery store.

“I am the TaB stalker,� Bryant admits. “I tracked down one Coca-Cola person who delivers in the Galloway area and made him promise to deliver me some TaB. I ran into him a few weeks later and kept asking him where it was.�

She and other TaBbies are still waiting to hear about the fate of the original TaB, which Muth says will be back in stores within the next month.

“It’s incredible the amount of calls we’re getting from people asking when TaB is coming back,â€� Muth said. “It will be back. We have no intention of discontinuing it. It’s just taking a little longer to get it out than we thought.â€�

Meanwhile, Yocum is down to her last two cases of TaB. She is rationing out the soda like it’s liquid gold, limiting herself to only two sodas a day, when she could probably down at least four.

“If they discontinue TaB altogether, I’m switching to Diet Snapple,â€� Yocum said. “I don’t like any other carbonated drink. If they stop making TaB, then it’s bye-bye Coke for me.â€�

(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.)

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