Coca-Cola To Eliminate Tab, Several Other Drinks

Oct. 16, 2020
Coke's first diet soda plus Zico, Odwalla and a handful of others will be gone by 2021.

Nearly six decades ago, there was just Coca-Cola until Tab came along in 1963. Coca-Cola Co.'s first diet soda had a long run, and briefly a good run, but it will cease to be by the end of this year.

Coca-Cola Co. announced the iconic diet soda (Coke styled it "TaB") will be retired along with select underperforming products by Dec. 31. That list includes Zico coconut water, Odwalla, Coca-Cola Life and Diet Coke Feisty Cherry, as well as regional offerings Northern Neck Ginger Ale and Delaware Punch in the U.S. and Vegitabeta in Japan and Kuat in Brazil.

It's all part of a portfolio rightsizing by Chairman and CEO James Quincey, who said the company needs to eliminate underperforming brands to concentrate efforts on those with growth potential. As we reported in our Top 100© analysis, Coca-Cola, while still handsomely profitable, has been shrinking in sales since 2012, when it hit $48 billion. Last year's sales were $37 billion, a small increase over 2018 and the first uptick since 2012. And that takes into account annual acquisitions.

Tab broke new ground in 1963. Initially marketed to women (hence the pink can), the saccharine-sweetened, zero-calorie soda became a cultural icon in the 1980s and maintained a small but loyal following over the past few decades. Tab is also sold in South Africa.

“We’re forever grateful to Tab for paving the way for the diets and lights category. If not for Tab, we wouldn’t have Diet Coke or Coke Zero Sugar," remarked Kerri Kopp, group director, Diet Coke, Coca-Cola North America. "In order to continue to innovate and give consumers the choices they want today, we have to make decisions like this one as part of our portfolio rationalization work.”

On the upswing are such new offerings as Minute Maid and Simply products, Topo Chico Hard Seltzer, Coca-Cola Energy and AHA flavored sparkling water.

Plans to streamline the company’s beverage lineup were underway well before the coronavirus outbreak, but the pandemic promoted leadership to move faster, the company noted. Ongoing COVID-19 supply chain challenges and shifting shopping behaviors prompted the company to fast-track its plan.

“This is not a bottom-line efficiency play,” said Brad Spickert, senior vice president of innovation and commercialization for Coca-Cola North America. “It’s a top-line growth play.”

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