We're throwing a retirement party for the one-calorie cola conceived in 1962, the year the TWA Flight Center opened. Every evening at 7 PM, a tribute to the carbonated sip (discontinued in December 2020) flips on the Solari departures board.
Marvel at a museum-quality oil painting of the famed fizz and pose with a four-foot replica. Then check out an exhibition about how Tab is spending its golden years. Now that it has canned the soda gig, Tab is tanning, fishing and golfing. There is life after pop stardom!
The TWA Hotel shares a special connection with the bubbly beverage. As the TWA Flight Center designed by Eero Saarinen opened to great acclaim in 1962, low-calorie cola was all the rage. Royal Crown’s Diet Rite offered two calories in 12 ounces compared with regular pop’s 80 to 120 calories — and it was flying off the shelves. Coca-Cola’s chemists raced to adapt their wildly popular soft drink, Coke.
Despite their best efforts, the final saccharin-fueled formula didn’t taste good enough to be called Diet Coke. (That drink wouldn’t arrive on the scene until 1982.) Perplexed about what to name their new concoction, executives asked an IBM computer. Among the 325,000 suggestions: Flug, Gaag and Burp. One of Tab’s chemists came to the rescue, as the story goes, telling his bosses, “We’ve been calling this Project Tab: Totally Artificial Beverage.”
Marketed as a way for people to keep tabs on their weight without sacrificing taste — slogans included “Tab’s Got Sass” and “Body by Tab” — the drink was an instant hit. By the 1970s, original Tab welcomed Strawberry, Lemon-Lime and Root Beer spin-offs. The soda hit its stride in the 80s, attracting a cult following with the promise of being for “beautiful people.”
But Diet Coke’s surging popularity was pretty tough to deny. In 2011, only three million cases of Tab were made, compared with 885 million cases of Diet Coke. As the hot pink cans began disappearing from stores, thirsty Tabaholics drove miles to get their fizz fix. “It’s like a real cult community,” Natalie Kueneman, the creator of ilovetab.com, told The New York Times in 2018. “I get five to 10 emails a month from people asking where they can find Tab.”
In the end, neither a petition signed by 4,000 people on ilovetab.com nor calls to Coca-Cola succeeded in saving the soda. The company announced that Tab would take its last gulp on December 31, 2020. So don’t kick the can down the road — plan a trip to TWA!