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Is TaB going away? Why some superfans are starting to stockpile the classic soda

People who drink the popular diet soda say it's becoming harder to find in stores.
USA - Business - Soft Drink Market in the US
Cans of diet cola Tab brand soft drink produced by the Coca-Cola Company are displayed at a supermarket in the Brooklyn borough of New York, on Tuesday, July 26, 2011. The US annual soft drinks sales is approximately $66 billion. Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc., and Cadbury Schweppes Plc, control over 91% of the U.S. market share. (Photo by Ramin Talaie/Corbis via Getty Images)Ramin Talaie / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

They call themselves TaBaholics and TaBbies. And they are growing increasingly worried that the supply of their beloved diet soda is dwindling.

For the younger folks out there — and those who last heard of TaB when Marty McFly ordered one at a '50s diner in "Back to the Future" thinking it was 1985 — yes, TaB still exists.

But some soda lovers say it's becoming harder and harder to find on store shelves. Is Coca-Cola truly doing away with the beloved brand?

Panicked TaB lovers have come together on the "I Love TaB" Facebook page and website, which are run by TaB superfan Natalie Kueneman, 43, to express their fears over not being able to find it as easily at their local stores lately.

"I am crushed that Coke has discontinued it in my area, central Kentucky,'' a TaB lover named Martha Hall posted on the group's page.

But the good news (and the truth) is that The Coca-Cola Company has no plans to stop pumping out cans of TaB, even though sales of the soda began to decline after the introduction of Diet Coke in 1982.

"TaB is not being discontinued nationally,'' Coca-Cola said in a statement to TODAY Food. "For years, TaB has been available in select locations and stores across the country, as local bottlers have the option to choose whether to sell TaB based on local preferences.

"We know there are passionate TaB fans, and this is why the product continues to be available for sale online nationwide."

TaB represented less than 0.03 percent of all of Coca-Cola's beverage sales nationally in 2017, with about 1.5 million cases sold out of 6 billion beverages overall, according to the company.

The bad news for TaB lovers in certain parts of the country is that due to dwindling demand overall, it may soon be harder to get. The Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated, which distributes it in 14 states and the District of Columbia, told The New York Times that it has stopped selling 12-packs of cans at certain stores in its distribution area. Cue the under-caffeinated panic!

"I started getting inundated with emails from the Southeast that it was going away," Kueneman told TODAY. "I'm hoping that maybe we can convince them (to keep it), because this is a product has had zero advertising since about 1991, but there's still demand because the people who drink TaB only drink TaB."

Any disruption in the soda universe can be a trying time for fans of certain products or those testing out new ones. Just ask the Coke Zero lovers who found out the recipe had changed, or those who have sampled its newest addition: Moxie.

The threat of local bottlers deciding not to sell it anymore is why TaBbies like Tracey Whiting are making it a habit to stockpile the soda while they can.

TaB lover Tracey Whiting has a separate fridge just for her stockpile of her favorite soda.
TaB lover Tracey Whiting has a separate fridge just for her stockpile of her favorite soda. Tracey Ellsworth Burrell Whiting/Facebook

Whiting, 61, a retired power company employee from West Valley City, Utah, told TODAY Food she drinks about six or seven cans a day and has a separate refrigeratorfor just her TaB, which usually has about six to eight cases in it.

She has been drinking it since she was a teenager, just a few years after it was introduced in 1963.

"It has the burn,'' Whiting said. "Everything else just tastes flat. People always joke with me that TaB stands for 'tastes awful bad,' but I say wrong, wrong, wrong.

"We're like a cult following."

That following even includes CEOs of big companies.

"I've gotten about 10 emails over the years from personal assistants of CEOs asking me where to get it, because their boss is traveling and has to have TaB,'' Kueneman said.

Whiting has even had instances where the manager at her local grocery store would call her directly to tell her that the Coca-Cola delivery person had just been to the store and there was a shelf full of TaB so she would be able to fulfill her stockpiling needs.

"I clean the shelf off every time I go,'' she said. "Sometimes I'll see a woman with a bunch of it in her cart, and I'll be joking like, 'You're the person who's buying all the TaB!'"

There is a certain etiquette among the TaBbies.

"You never try to take the last TaB from the store, because you always want to leave one more for the next person,'' Kueneman said. "There's this whole courtesy about it."

Whiting has passed her love of diet sodas on to the next generation, as her 14-year-old granddaughter also enjoys the soda made with a blend of the artificial sweeteners saccharin and NutraSweet. And if there ever is a shortage in her local area, that wouldn't stop Whiting from tracking down some TaB.

"I know I'll pay a lot for it; I have to,'' she said.