A culinary disappointment! A bona-fide flop! The Edsel of the beverage industry! No, these statements do not describe New Coke, but the dehydrated beverage known as Tang. Before its rise to fame, the orange slurry started its life in 1959 as a flop. But though the sales were meager, the company persevered, thanks to its easily-transportable (and preservative-laden) nature and eventual appeal to the space race fans of the sixties.
NASA’s support of the product changed everything. When the astronauts started bringing Tang on the Gemini missions, it created a sensation. A new market emerged thanks to the space-obsessed public’s keen interest in everything futuristic, and Tang was poised to take the lead with a product that was already available in most supermarkets. In a nanosecond, Tang was a household name. Soon, other food manufacturers, such as Pillsbury, jumped at the chance to capitalize on this movement with products like Space Food Sticks– though none have had the staying power of Tang.
Since then, Tang has gone on to become a worldwide product, effectively and efficiently bringing nutrients to the masses with its powdery-goodness. Loaded with Vitamins A and C, the tangy orange-flavored powder can handle a variety of conditions, making it an efficient way to provide nutrients to otherwise suffering regions. Over the years, Tang has introduced new flavors, such as grape, orange-pineapple and even watermelon. Today, there are dozens of varieties available, making yesterday’s drink of tomorrow pleasant for any palate.
While dehydrated snacks and tubes of beef might be out of fashion for the jetpack set of today, Tang got an unexpected promo in 1998, when Senator John Glenn, the first astronaut in the 1960s to undergo “eating experiments,” requested the beverage for his return to outer space. It’s an inspiration to all food products with one foot in the grave: with a little perseverance (and the support of an astronaut or two) you too can shoot for the stars.
If you started a few childhood mornings with a glass of Tang, we’d love to hear your recollections in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this retro beverage of choice for heroes and youngsters alike.