Sweet Revenge

Benjamin Eisenstadt (1907-1996) had more than his share of failures, or you might say that bad luck dogged him most of his adult life. He graduated from law school in New York just as the Depression struck in 1929. Though first in his class, he was unable to find a job as a lawyer so he ran a cafeteria across from the Brooklyn Naval Yard. His business thrived during World War II, but clientele disappeared when peace was announced. In 1946 he converted the cafeteria into a not-very-successful tea factory. Then Mr. Eisenstadt had a brainstorm that changed the way Americans dispense sugar. The same equipment that injected tea into tea bags could be used to put sugar into little paper packets. Success at last, he thought, and proudly escorted big sugar executives through his factory as it churned out the revolutionary sugar packets. However, the sugar companies simply copied his brainstorm. His Cumberland Packing Company limped along for another decade. Then in 1957, after almost 30 years of false starts and marginal successes, Eisenstadt concocted a "granulated low-calorie sugar substitute." This time he obtained a patent for what he named Sweet'N Low. The product was snapped up by weight-obsessed Americans, who by the 1990's were ripping open 50 million of Eisenstadt's pink packets a year. His company now racks up sales of $200 million annually and employs over 400 people in the same building that once housed the ill-fated cafeteria. Eisenstadt's late-life success is a testament to perseverance but it is also a story of sweet revenge over those sugar companies that stole his original brainstorm.