The Gatorade Guys Dr. Cade and crew are pouring the huge profits from their invention into various good causes

July 01, 2001

In addition to mixing up the original batch of Gatorade,
University of Florida nephrologist Robert Cade is well-known
among friends and colleagues for mixing potions that have a less
salubrious effect. "On Friday afternoons I conducted what we'd
call the Hepat-o-Renal [i.e., liver-kidney] Symposium," says
Cade, 73, of the informal gatherings of students, professors,
interns and residents. "I would talk about something scientific
for about 30 minutes. Then we would have cocktails."

Cade would mix daiquiris, mint juleps and whiskey sours, gladly
playing the role of the absinthe-minded professor. One of these
symposiums went quite late. The following morning Cade awoke on
his living room floor with a tremendous pain in his side. "That,"
diagnosed his nine-year-old daughter, Martha, "must be where
Mommy kicked you last night."

In a more upright and upstanding pursuit, Cade began devising his
famous sports drink in response to a question posed by former
Gators offensive tackle Dwayne Douglas in 1965. Dana Shires, a
research fellow working under Cade, was having lunch with
Douglas, who was the university hospital's chief of security and
an assistant coach for Florida's freshman football team, when
Douglas asked why players didn't pee during practice. Spurred by
this query, Cade, Shires and the two other postdoctoral fellows
in the nephrology lab, Jim Free and Alex de Quesada, began to
study dehydration during physical exertion. That work resulted in
their quest to produce a beverage that would rapidly replenish
the body with the sodium, sugar and water it expends during
strenuous exercise. After a month of tinkering, Gatorade,
originally dubbed Cade's Cola, debuted at Florida Field on a
balmy afternoon in October 1965 during a scrimmage between
Florida's freshman and B teams. The next day Cade and Shires
served Gatorade to the varsity during their game with LSU.

"Larry Gagner, a tackle, said, 'This stuff tastes like piss.'"
says Cade. "Then he poured the rest of it over his head."
(Historians, take note: the first Gatorade shower.) "Next, safety
Bruce Bennett sipped it. Then he gulped it. 'Larry,' said
Bennett, 'this doesn't taste like piss to me.'"

Although the performance of the players seemed to be a strong
endorsement of Cade & Co.'s sports drink, Gagner's assessment
intrigued Cade. "None of us had tasted urine," says Cade, who
persuaded Shires to join him in a tasting. "We wee-weed in a cup
and dabbed a finger. You know what? There's a significant
difference in flavor."

Gatorade now comes in 19 flavors and commands 83% of the
sports-drink market, which, after all, it created. Annual gross
sales of the drink, which is now produced by Quaker Oats, are
approximately $2.3 billion. Each year Cade and his team share a
hefty royalty payment, and the university, where the research was
done, receives in excess of $6 million annually. The four
physicians regard their elixir as nothing less than a blessed
mixing. Cade and his wife, Mary (who first suggested adding lemon
juice for flavoring), award 30 college scholarships each year and
have endowed a professorial chair at Florida.

Shires, 68, is CEO of the LifeLink Foundation, a Tampa-based
organ transplant center that he cofounded in 1982 with de
Quesada, 68. Each year their staff of 21 doctors performs more
than 300 heart, kidney, liver and pancreas transplants, often to
indigent patients. "We've done a lot of good things for people
with the [Gatorade] money, and we're grateful for that," says
Shires. "But perhaps the most important thing that we did was
alert people to the necessity of rehydrating in the midst of

That can be done with Gatorade. Or water. Or, well.... "The first
full season we served Gatorade to the Florida football team was
1966," Cade says. "That was the year [quarterback and now Gators
coach] Steve Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy." You'd be tempted
to give Gatorade partial credit for Spurrier's superior play
except that the savvy signal-caller never drank it during games.
"He drank, well, I almost hesitate to tell you," says Cade. "He
drank Coca-Cola."

--John Walters

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY BRIAN SMITH Eminently potable (from left) Cade, Free, de Quesada and Shires toasted the source of their good fortune, seen below in an early incarnation. COLOR PHOTO: LYNN PELHAM (BOTTLE) [See caption above]

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