Entrepreneur Profile: Robert Cade – Inventor of Gatorade

Gatorade_logoRobert J. Cade’s name is not a household name in the US. His invention, on the other hand, we have all probably used at least once throughout our lifetimes: Gatorade.

Robert Cade was born in San Antonio, Texas on September 26, 1927. Since young age, Cade showed a lot of interest in sports and had remarkable athletic performance. He served in World War II as an assistant pharmacist and, once discharged, pursued his medical degree in the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. In 1961, Cade joined the faculty of the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville, Florida, as an assistant professor of internal medicine in its renal division. It would be in this university where he would achieve his life’s greatest accomplishment.

University of Florida’s football team is the center part of the institution. The nationally famous Gators were having troubles in that year’s season. Dewayne Douglas, the team’s coach at the time, noticed that players were getting dehydrated in the middle of practices in southern weather during mid-summer and early fall. Cade inquired the team and concluded that every player was losing water through perspiration and not getting it back until a while after practice or games. He performed several tests and his results that proved the levels of dehydration the players faced were astonishing. Therefore, during 1965-1966, along with a group of research doctors, Cade developed a rehydration beverage composed of extra glucose and electrolytes. Even though it was a horrible drink at the beginning (players stated that it tasted like “dirty water”), with the help of his wife, he added a lemonade flavor that made it drinkable for the players in the team. After the team won its first “Orange Bowl Title,” recovering and beating the Yellow Jackets, the effect of Gatorade on its users became evident. The word spread and Cade began to move to market his idea. He patented it and eventually entered a contract with Stokely-Van Camp, Inc. to produce and sell the drink in large quantities. In the meantime, he kept working at the University of Florida as a professor and made generous donations as well as royalties to the institution.

Gatorade is now owned by Pepsi Co. and its estimated worth is of about $72 billion dollars, in contrast to the initial $45 dollars it took to make the first batch of Gatorade at the university. Even though Robert Cade was shocked to see how far his product went in the business world, he held more pride in how it was being used to treat patients at hospitals, especially children with diarrhea. Robert Cade died at the age of 80 on April 2007.

I picked Robert Cade for several reasons. First of all, I have always noticed a pattern on the way new products or ideas come out. When we read in history books about the story behind any kind of invention, it’s impressive to see how many times these come out of college professors and students. I love this because, at this point of my life, I can relate to it and have high aspirations. Another reason why I picked Cade was because he didn’t necessarily sit down and think about something that the world might need, or even about an entrepreneurial idea to make money. He was merely approached by someone else who had a necessity and found a way to meet that necessity using his area of expertise. Once he came up with a solution though, he didn’t just stop there. Instead, he got moving and looked for ways in which he could get the word of his product spread and marketed. The fact that his $45 initially invested are now the foundations of a multi-billion dollar company is simply impressive.