Tab Will Make a Modern Comeback

Coca-Cola Co. will relaunch Tab -- a drink that has largely disappeared from the shelves since the 1970s -- early next year, the Associated Press reported.

The new Tab will be an energy drink. Tab Energy will come in skinny pink 10.5-ounce cans with the old Tab logo and "energy" in small yellow letters, according to materials from meetings held earlier this month with Coke bottlers. The target market for the low-calorie drink, which does not taste like the original Tab, is young women.

Coca-Cola spokesman Scott Williamson declined to comment on Tab Energy.

This is the latest chapter in a long story for Tab, once the most popular diet drink on the market. Launched in 1963, it was sweetened with a mix of saccharin and cyclamates until the latter were banned in 1969. The drink has been reformulated several times and is now flavored with a saccharin-aspartame combination. Tab's star dimmed significantly in the '80s, when the company introduced Diet Coke. The company quit advertising Tab in 1987. But a small but fiercely devoted fan base has continued to drink Tab.

Internally at Coke, Tab has also enjoyed a heightened status recently. Chairman and CEO Neville Isdell, who took the helm of the company last year, drinks Tab, even in high-profile places like the podium at investor conferences.

If Coke is able to turn Tab Energy into a hit, the financial payoff could be significant. Though still small, the category is fast-growing and has fat margins. An energy drink at a convenience store costs about $2, significantly more than a soft drink.

Already this year, Coke has added two energy drinks, Full Throttle and Rockstar, to its portfolio. Next month it will launch Von Dutch Energy Drink, named after the fashion brand known for trucker caps and $150-plus jeans. Both Rockstar and Von Dutch are owned by Las Vegas-based Rockstar. Coca-Cola and its largest bottler, Coca-Cola Enterprises, have a distribution deal with Rockstar.

The growth of energy drinks has been fueled primarily by young men. Coke is hoping to hook women with Tab Energy's dark pink cans.

Energy is just one piece of Coke's strategy to develop new niche categories, necessary as sales of regular soft drinks decline in the United States. In addition to Tab Energy, bottlers said they got a taste of Coca-Cola Blak, a carbonated coffee cola, and Dasani Sensations, flavored sparkling water. Both are set to launch next year.

The company plans to package Coca-Cola Blak in an 8-ounce glass bottle shaped like an old-fashioned Coke bottle. The bottle will be black and have gold writing, according to materials distributed to bottlers at the meeting.

Dasani Sensations will come in two flavors -- mixed berry and lemon-lime. A national advertising campaign for Dasani Sensations is set to kick off during the Academy Awards, according to the materials.

Williamson at Coke declined to comment on Coca-Cola Blak or Dasani Sensations.