Business Innovation: Saccharin

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Saccharin In researching accidental innovations and inventions, there seemed to be one that was showing up on multiple lists. The invention of Saccharin, most notably used in sweeteners like Sweet N Low, was created in a bizarre manner. I think it is interesting how one unhygienic act can end up changing what the world knows about artificial sweeteners. The sweetener proved to be very profitable and has a large amount of staying power. Saccharin, or Benzoic Sulfimide (as it is known chemically), is an artificial sweetener that is used in the pink packets everyone knows so well, as well as a substitute for sugar in diet sodas. More than just a sweetener, the invention has proved to be important for those with diabetes because it travels the human digestive system without being digested. It has no caloric value, which is why it is used in diet products like Diet Coke. The story of its creation is an interesting one. It was developed by Constantin Fahlberg, a chemist. He worked in a lab at John’s Hopkins on coal tar derivatives. The story goes, he came home from a long day at the lab in 1878 and did not wash his hands before dinner. When he grabbed a dinner roll, he noticed that there was a sweet taste to the otherwise non-sweet variable. This new taste prompted him to ask his wife what she did differently with the dinner rolls that day. When she replied ‘nothing’, he realized that it was a compound on his hand that provided the sweet taste. He went to the lab the next day and figured out the chemical compound that was on his hand. He had found saccharin. Saccharin was not a ‘big hit’ right away but it proved to be a popular sugar substitute come the sugar shortages during World War 1. It became more widespread in its use, and became exponentially more popular when dieters took to the calorie free option. It amazes me that a chemist could be working on
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