Discovery Of Simplesse Was An Accident With PM-Fat Substitute BjtPETER COY , Associated Press
Jan. 28, 1988 4:55 AM ET
NEW YORK (AP) _ It started, as so often happens, with an accident.
Norman S. Singer was trying to make something useful out of whey protein when his team stumbled on the substance that became the fat substitute Simplesse.
Singer vividly remembers what happened in 1979 when his associate at John Labatt Ltd., Shoji Yamamoto, brought him an odd substance that gelled like egg white but crumbled like Styrofoam.
''I popped it in my mouth and tasted it,'' Singer said Wednesday. ''What I felt was something like cream cheese.''
Singer put a sample into a bag and gave it to another scientist at the London, Ontario-based laboratory to put under a powerful microscope.
''It was like looking at Jones Beach on a hot August day from a helicopter. It was crowded with these little rolling things,'' Singer said.
What Singer was seeing for the first time was tiny spheres of protein rolling over each other. They were the size of drops of mist, or about a tenth the size of particles of powdered sugar.
The rolling action of the particles gave the sensation of smooth creaminess that is characteristic of fat. Singer gave some to his boss, who decided it tasted like cheese cake.
Certain that he had something valuable, Singer wrote up a patent disclosure statement the same day. But it took 1 1/2 years before Bert Shelton, then Labatt's research director, managed to get funding to study the substance.
In 1984, after a year of discussions, Labatt licensed the technology to NutraSweet, which continued to refine it.
Singer, who holds several other food patents, was hired as NutraSweet's director of new product development. Shelton became its vice president of technology.
NutraSweet and Labatt have applied for patents on different aspects of Simplesse and the first ones may be issued by the U.S. Patent Office as early as ''the next month or so,'' said Robert Shapiro, NutraSweet's chairman and chief executive.