Artificial sweetener magnate Donald Tober dies from apparent suicide
01/25/2021 // Arsenio Toledo // Views

Donald Tober, the 89-year-old magnate responsible for marketing and popularizing the artificial sweetener brand Sweet'N Low, died on Friday, Jan. 15, in what the police described as an apparent suicide.

Tober was the CEO and co-owner of New York City-based Sugar Foods Corporation, which employs around 1,400 people. According to the New York Police Department (NYPD), his body was found just after 5 a.m. at the courtyard of his apartment building in Manhattan.

The NYPD determined that Tober committed suicide by jumping off the building. Tober was dealing with Parkinson's disease at the time of his death.

He was married to Barbara Tober, whom he met in 1972. They tied the knot a year later, according to a 1992 profile in a Memphis, Tennessee-based newspaper The Commercial Appeal.

Barbara Tober worked for about 30 years as editor-in-chief of Brides magazine. She also served as a former trustees board chair at the Museum of Arts and Design in Manhattan.

The Tobers lived most of their lives on the 11th floor of a luxury apartment building in Park Avenue, between 65th and 6th street in Manhattan's affluent Upper East Side neighborhood. The couple also owned a horse farm in Dutchess County, Upstate New York, and at one point Donald was sending horses to compete in horse-jumping events.

Tober helped sell Sweet'N Low since the 1950s

Sugar Foods Corporation was founded in 1948 by Harry Tober, Donald's father. The company originally sold 100-pound sacks filled with sugar, but he later found it more profitable to sell sugar to restaurants and cafes in small packets.


The company itself did not manufacture the saccharin-based artificial sweetener, Sweet'N Low. That distinction goes to Cumberland Packing Corporation, a Brooklyn-based company that began making and distributing it in 1957. However, Sugar Foods did market it and, with Tober at the helm of the company, made Sweet'N Low's recognizable pink packets a common fixture in restaurants, cafes and diners all over the United States. (Related: Do you really want to use that? Artificial sweeteners linked to unwanted weight gain.)

Tober, who was born in 1931, was raised in New York. He spent part of his youth helping his father deliver Sugar Foods products. He finished his undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and then went on to get a law degree from Harvard University. After working as a lawyer for a few years, he joined his father in running the company in 1958.

While Sugar Foods sold a lot of condiments and other foods, it is best known for being one of the country's top manufacturers and distributors of sweeteners, including brands such as N'Joy and ecoStick.

"Basically, we're concerned with everything that surrounds the coffee cup," Tober told Restaurant News in 1995. "We're tightly focused."

The company truly gained prominence once it started distributing Sweet'N Low.

"Sweet'N Low is the driving force in everything we do," said Tober in an interview with the newspaper Newsday in 1990. "It gets us into any door in the country."

By the 1990s, with Tober's involvement, it was estimated that about 86 percent of all food-service outlets in the country had Sweet'N Low packets on hand, despite serious competition from other corporations peddling similar artificial sweeteners like NutraSweet, which sold artificial sweeteners in distinctive blue packets.

"Donald is Sweet'N Low," said Steve Odell, the president and co-founder of Sugar Foods and a business partner of Tober for over 51 years. "Don's had as much to do with building Sweet'N Low into a household name as anyone ever has with a product. Every packet of Sweet'N Low sold today can be traced back to a single sales call that he probably made or at least had a part in. He was bigger than life. He made everybody feel special – everybody. He's an icon and he always will be," Odell said.

Odell said he was shocked by the suicide, especially since he just talked to him a day before and, according to him, there was no indication that Tober would ever take his own life. However, Odell admitted that he knew Tober was fighting a disease that he described as "devastating."

Along with being the CEO of Sugar Foods, Tober was very involved in philanthropy in New York City. He co-founded the Citymeals on Wheels program, which provides prepared meals and support for the city's elderly residents. He was also the former chairman of The Culinary Institute of Americaand he was a trustee in the American Austrian Foundation, which described Tober as "an avid equestrian and skier."

Learn more about Sweet'N Lows and the other artificial sweeteners being peddled by corporations like Sugar Foods, as well as the health effects these products cause by reading the latest articles at

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