Did you know that Tang, that orangey, quick to make powdered drink mix, now comes in 38 flavors delivered around the world?
It’s come a long way since General Foods introduced it in 1959 as a breakfast drink. Formulated in 1957, Tang was one of the earlier “convenience foods.” Easy to store on a pantry shelf, quick and easy to prepare, and advertised to be nutritious and delicious, Tang was a true innovation.
Since fresh squeezed orange juice was the rule of the day then, many women were not ready to serve their families a powdered orange juice substitute, no matter how good it tasted.
As a matter of fact, Tang didn’t take off very well at all for eight years, until 1965, when it really did take off with the astronauts of Gemini 4. Over the next 10 years, Tang went into space with each manned flight the US sent up. Seeing how this produced a marketing advantage, Tang leveraged that by helping to sponsor ABC’s TV coverage of Apollo 8, the first manned flight around the moon in 1968.
Still flying on the space theme, Tang offered two premiums in 1972, as Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 space flights held the American interest and every kid dreamed of being an astronaut. One of the premiums offered was a replica of the roving vehicle used to explore the moon and the other was a map of the moon in full color. I couldn’t find the number of moon roving vehicle replicas that were released, but there were about 63,000 maps produced and sent to schools around the nation.
Different flavors of were developed over time. Grape was the first to be introduced (in 1968) and was quite popular during the 70’s. It’s still made, but not for the US market, rather being shipped to foreign countries where they can appreciate orange grape juice. No, I’m kidding. Grape Tang is not orange.
Several other flavors have been offered, both here and abroad, but orange Tang still leads the pack.
Nutritionally, Tang’s claim to fame is that each 8 ounce serving (2 level tablespoons of Tang to 8 ounces of water) provides 100% of Vitamin C for adults. Although it’s otherwise healthy, containing good levels of Vitamin A, Vitamin B6 and niacin, the sugar content is quite high. But, being on top of things… Sugar Free Tang, another sign of the times, was introduced in 1983.
From glass jars to ready to drink pouches, from breakfast drink to lunchbox fare, Tang has come a long way in 50 years. But perhaps it hasn’t, after all. It’s still available in orange powdered form, just right for your pantry shelf and easy enough for the kids to fix themselves. And it’s still remembered as the drink that went to the moon.