By November 28, 2007Innovation

gatorade.jpgToday’s papers report that the inventor of Gatorade has passed away. Dr. Robert Cade invented the now-famous sports drink in 1965 to help football athletes at the University of Florida replace carbohydrates and electrolytes lost through sweat during training. Everyone is interested in the innovation process and the creation of this multi-billion industry is a good insight into how new products are born.

It doesn’t always take a huge research budget to innovate. The need for Gatorade was identified when Gators football coach Dwayne Douglas asked Cade, “why don’t football players wee-wee after a game?” Dr. Cade, who was a professor of internal medicine at UF, jumped on that question with some of his researchers and learaned that a football player can lose up to 18 pounds — up to 95 percent of it water — in a typical three-hour game.

With about $43 in supplies, Dr. Cade and his team developed a brew that replaced the water and minerals lost by players, but their first step on this road to innovation didn’t meet with a lot of success. Dr. Cade said sometime ago in an interview that it tasted like toilet bowl cleaner. After adding some sweeteners, the coach tried it out on freshmen because he didn’t want to hurt the varsity players.

Eventually the drink became a standard part of the Gators’ playbook and caught the attention of others after the 1967 Orange Bowl, where UF defeated Georgia Tech. The GT coach remarked that they lost that game because “we didn’t have Gatorade….that made the difference.” After that, the sports drink was commercialized and has become a popular beverage around the world, a development that Dr. Cade never envisioned when he created his first concoction. Inventions can be like that: one good thing leads to another.

Our condolences to the Cade family on losing a man who is one of American’s true innovators.

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