Royal Crown Cola’s Diet-Rite, introduced in 1958, was one of the first diet sodas on the market. Once the nation started watching its weight and Royal Crown Cola started advertising Diet-Rite as a soda rather than a specialized diet product, the Coca-Cola company knew they had to do something to compete.
In 1963, Coca-Cola introduced TaB, their first diet soda. Snopes.com, a website dedicated to investigating rumors and urban legends, gives the origin of the name, which some people have erroneously assumed stands for “Totally Artificial Beverage.” [http://www.snopes.com/business/names/tab.asp] Coca-Cola was unwilling to dilute their brand by referring to their diet soda as Diet Coke. Instead, they came up with a list of three- and four-letter combinations and put about two dozen of them through market tests. TaB emerged victorious. According to Coca-Cola, it brings to mind keeping “tabs” on your weight.
Knowing a little more about TaB, now we needed to find its Pepsi counterpart. The Pepsico website has a timeline section that goes back to the sixties, but there’s not much information there. However, searching “Pepsi drinks 1960s” in an online search engine brought up the Wikipedia page for Patio, which jogged our memories. Introduced by Pepsi in 1963, Patio came in several different flavors including cola, orange, root beer, strawberry, and grape.
Fans of the television show Mad Men may be familiar with the drink. In one episode, the characters put together an ultimately unsuccessful commercial for Patio imitating the opening song in “Bye Bye Birdie,” but changing the words to “Bye bye, sugar.” A year later, Patio Diet Cola was replaced by Diet Pepsi, though some of the flavored sodas stuck around into the seventies. TaB, however, can still be found in some stores today.
For more information about Pepsi’s history and their rivalry with Coca-Cola, Pepsi: 100 Years by Bob Stoddard and The Cola Wars by J.C. Louis are both available through CLEVNET.
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