Take $46 worth of supplies, dehydrated University of Florida football players and a brilliant doctor and his team, mix together and you have the formula for Gatorade. The iconic sports drink now enjoys an 80 percent market share of sports beverages and generates $5 billion a year in sales globally.
It started as a research project in 1965 by Dr. Robert Cade. He was approached by Dewayne Douglas, an assistant coach for the Florida Gators, who was concerned about the extreme dehydration of his players in late summer and early fall. Cade, assistant professor in the renal division of the University of Florida College of Medicine, was intrigued. He assembled a team of research doctors and began trial-and-error experiments. They learned football players were losing up to 18 pounds during the three hours of a college football game and that 90 to 95 percent of the loss was water.
Gatorade was designed to replace electrolytes lost from sweating. At a certain point in the process critical tests of sweat and blood samples were used to determine the drink’s effect on the athletes. One obvious effect was the Gators’ Orange Bowl victory in 1967 over Georgia Tech. Yellow Jackets Coach Bobby Dodd, when asked why his team lost, replied: “We didn’t have Gatorade. That made the difference.”
In the early stages of formulating Gatorade, the taste was really bad. Enter Cade’s wife, Mary, who suggested lemon juice be added to enhance the flavor. The zest is history!
Today Gatorade is the official sports drink of the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL, among many other sports teams and organizations.
Since 1973, Gatorade has provided more than $240 million in revenues and royalties to UF, mostly to fund advanced medical research, including diabetes research and advanced gene therapy.
In 2004, Cade and his family established the Cade Museum Foundation to design and build a museum (Cade Museum of Creativity and Innovation) in Gainesville, which will open in late 2015.
In September 2013, Cade was honored with the Great Floridian Award, presented to his widow by Gov. Rick Scott.
It is appropriate the top sports drink in the world was a team effort.