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It was in a New York City restaurant that inspiration struck. Tori Stuart was out at breakfast with her family when her mother, Jackie, pulled from her purse a Ziploc bag of granola. Plagued by the hot flashes of menopause but advised by doctors against using hormone replacement therapy (HRT), Jackie Stuart had mixed the cereal after reading that flaxseed and soy contain plant-based forms of estrogen that can ease the symptoms of menopause naturally and without the dangers of HRT.

Jackie's daughter immediately recognized that the Ziploc bag also contained the entrepreneurial sprout she'd been looking for. After earning her A.B. in international relations and working in sales, advertising, and consulting, Stuart had decided to start her own company. All she needed was an idea. "I really wanted to start a business that I could feel good about," she says. And now she could. After all, if Jackie Stuart, a New York City lawyer who, her daughter says, "doesn't love to cook," could carry a packet of homemade granola around in her purse, Tori Stuart figured she'd found a product that people would buy.

The fateful breakfast was in 1998. Stuart founded Zoe Foods - the name means "life" in Greek - later the same year, conducting product development in her Brookline, Massachusetts, kitchen. Today, Zoe, which is headquartered in nearby Newton, employs five people; its products - flax-and-soy cereal in three flavors and granola bars in four - is sold by forty-six brokers around the country.

Undoubtedly, Zoe Foods will benefit from recent media coverage of new studies suggesting a strong link between HRT and breast cancer. But while contemporary Americans are only now boarding the flaxseed bandwagon, the food's health benefits have been known since ancient times. Such illustrious historical figures as Thucydides, Pliny, and Charlemagne lauded the herb's usefulness for a variety of ills. Flaxseed's high fiber content is believed to aid digestion, and research has shown that it may be good for such things as slowing the growth of prostate tumors, speeding muscle recovery in athletes, and enhancing the immune system. As for soy, the Food and Drug Administration recently dubbed it an official heart-healthy food.

Stuart's next goal for her company is household recognition of the Zoe brand name. Products were scheduled to hit shelves in Shaw's supermarkets across New England over the summer and at Stop & Shop stores in the region this fall. Stuart estimates that Zoe foods are now available in 1,200 retail stores nationwide.





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