Robert Cade, Inventor of Gatorade, Dead at 80

Dr. Robert Cade, the man who invented Gatorade, has died. Cade created Gatorade at the University of Florida in 1965 as a way to both quench players' thirst and replace carbohydrates and electrolytes lost through sweating in the intense Florida heat. He succumbed to kidney failure. He was 80.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And next let's remember a man who's responsible for a lot of stock value. He created a $19-billion industry, the industry sports drinks. Robert Cade came up with a formula for Gatorade back in 1965, as NPR's Greg Allen has more.

GREG ALLEN: Robert Cade was just 37 years old and had only recently heard about new research showing the importance of glucose and salt in helping the body absorb water. He and his assistants got to work mixing up concoctions using sodium, potassium and glucose. The University of Florida football players asked to try it, said it tasted, well, like urine.

Chairman of the University of Florida department of medicine, Edward Block, picks up the story.

Dr. EDWARD BLOCK (University of Florida): So Bob Cade actually went back and took his Gatorade and took urine, and he didn't say which was which and tested it. And he decided that they both tasted alike, so the players were right.

ALLEN: Clearly improvements were needed. Following his wife's advice, Cade added lemon and soon had a winning formula. The Florida Gators for whom it was named drank it the entire 1966 season. But as Dr. Block recalls, Gatorade hit it big the following year when Florida beat Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

Dr. BLOCK: At the end of the game, when the coach for Georgia Tech was being interviewed, they said to him, well, coach, what happened? And he said, well, the difference in the game was those Gator boys drank Gatorade at half time, and that was it.

ALLEN: Now owned by Pepsi, Gatorade has an 80 percent share of the sports drink market, and it's generated more $150 million in royalties for the University of Florida, which helps explain why the University of Florida recently dedicated a historic marker on campus recognizing Dr. Robert Cade and his invention, Gatorade.

Dr. Cade died yesterday of kidney disease. He was 80 years old.

Greg Allen, NPR News.

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