“What We Used To Drink: TaB Clear Cola”

(“What We Used To Drink: TaB Clear Cola,” This is Bristol (in association with The Evening Post), June 15, 2004)

TaB Clear Cola? Never heard of it.

Never heard of it?

If you didn’t drink TaB Clear Cola in the 90s, you weren’t really there, mate. It was a design classic, a legend born in 1993, one of the greatest years of the decade, the year when, errmm, errmm . . .

You’re struggling . . .

The year when Michael Jackson was accused (for the first time) of kiddy-fiddling and Clint Eastwood’s movie Unforgiven won an Oscar.

Never heard of that, either. Tell me more about TaB Clear.

TaB Cola, made by the Coca-Cola company, was (and still is) a popular drink in the United States. It was hardly heard of at all in the UK before the 90s, although it had existed in America since 1963. It was marketed by the Coca-Cola company as a low-calorie drink, created using saccharin instead of sugar. It was advertised with the slogan, “How can one calorie taste so good?” There were rumours that “TaB” stood for “totally artificial beverage”, which was vehemently denied by Coca-Cola.

Apparently, in the early days of diet drinks Coca-Cola’s bosses felt that the creation of a “diet Coke” would somehow be viewed as a watering down of the globally famous all-American brand. Instead, they decided to give it a three-letter name which would be simple and easy to remember, and although the specific reasons for calling their new diet drink “TaB” are not known, Coca-Cola says it suggests “keeping tabs” on weight problems.

Was it always clear?

By no means. TaB didn’t change at all until a bit of fiddling went on the 1970s and 1980s.

Coca-Cola started bringing out stuff like Root Beer TaB, Orange TaB and Black Cherry TaB, to the disgust of millions of ordinary Americans who wanted their TaB to taste just like it used to do. People started to vote with their feet.

And was TaB Clear part of this experimental phase?

Indeed it was. TaB Clear was allegedly brought out to counteract a similar “clear” cola being brought out by deadly rivals Pepsi. By this stage, of course, the Diet Coke brand was firmly established and Coca-Cola would mess with it at their peril. So again, it was to be poor old TaB which was the sacrificial lamb.

What did it taste like?

Like an ordinary cola, except more gingery and, well, clear. It was by no means an unpleasant taste and it found its fans.

Unfortunately, its shelf life was limited, and it only lasted about a year. Pity, really. However, it was good news for the hard-core TaB fans, because after years of meddling, Coca-Cola finally made the decision to return TaB to its original flavour, to the satisfaction of its many fans who, apparently, will drive hundreds of miles across state borders in the US just to find a shop selling it in bulk.

(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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