Dr. J. Robert Cade, who invented the sports drink Gatorade and launched a multibillion-dollar industry, died Tuesday of kidney failure. He was 80.
His death was announced by the University of Florida, where he and other researchers created Gatorade in 1965 to help the school’s football players replace carbohydrates and electrolytes lost through sweat while playing in swamp-like heat.
“Today with his passing, the University of Florida lost a legend, lost one of its best friends and lost a creative genius,” said Dr. Edward Block, chairman of the department of medicine in the College of Medicine. “Losing any one of those is huge. When you lose all three in one person, it’s something you cannot recoup.”
Now sold in 80 countries in dozens of flavors, Gatorade was born thanks to a question from former Gators coach Dwayne Douglas, Cade said in a 2005 interview with The Associated Press.
He asked, “Doctor, why don’t football players wee-wee after a game?”
“That question changed our lives,” Cade said.
Cade’s researchers determined a football player could lose as much as 18 pounds — 90 to 95 percent of it water — during the three hours it takes to play a game. Players sweated away sodium and chloride and lost plasma volume and blood volume.
Using their research — and about $43 in supplies — they concocted a brew for players to drink while playing football. The first batch was not exactly a hit.
“It sort of tasted like toilet bowl cleaner,” said Dana Shires, one of the researchers.
“I guzzled it and I vomited,” Cade said.
The researchers added some sugar and some lemon juice to improve the taste. It was first tested on freshmen because coach Ray Graves didn’t want to hurt the varsity team. Eventually, however, the use of the sports beverage spread to the Gators, who enjoyed a winning record and were known as a “second-half team” by outlasting opponents.
After the Gators beat Georgia Tech 27-12 in the Orange Bowl in 1967, Tech coach Bobby Dodd told reporters his team lost because, “`We didn’t have Gatorade … that made the difference.”
Stokely-Van Camp obtained the licensing rights for Gatorade and began marketing it as the “beverage of champions.” PepsiCo Inc. now owns the brand, which has brought the university more than $150 million in royalties since 1973.
Cade said Stokely-Van Camp hated the name “Gatorade,” believing it was too parochial, but stuck with it after tests showed consumers liked the name.
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