Innovation sometimes strikes in the most ordinary of circumstances. Ben Eisenstadt and his wife, Betty, were at lunch when Ben had an idea after watching Betty wrestle with a clogged sugar container: he could package sugar. Packaged sugar would be easier and more sanitary to dispense. The year was 1947.
Unfortunately for Ben, Domino Sugar “borrowed” his unpatented idea following a business meeting. A few years later, as Marlene Wagman-Geller recounts in her book Eureka!, Ben was approached by a company looking for a sugar substitute. Ben and his son, Marvin, developed a product they called Sweet ’N Low, the name taken from a Tennyson poem, “The Princess: Sweet and Low.”
Even though the company that originally approached Ben was no longer interested in the sugar substitute, Ben successfully marketed the product to hospitals to help diabetics. And non-diabetics were also snatching up the bright pink packets. Ben soon sold the product nationwide and his factory produced fifty million packets of Sweet ‘N Low each day.
Now the company has been in business for over fifty years with plants in the United States and four foreign countries. The idea for the pink packets, which are found in restaurants and grocery stores almost everywhere, originated with an ordinary lunch. And a clogged sugar shaker.
Some of the greatest innovations, and some of our best ideas, come from ordinary moments. Sometimes the idea we need is literally sitting on the table, and we just need to pull our eyes away from the menu long enough to see it.