- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2000

Ellen Haas could have easily been spotted on Capitol Hill in the 1980s and 1990s crusading as a lobbyist for healthy eating and living.

She is still crusading, but is much less visible these days. Now she works behind the scenes on the Internet growing her new Washington company, Foodfit.com.

"We are an electronic path to healthy eating," she said. "We really use the Internet to the fullest."

Ms. Haas, not necessarily an entrepreneur, wanted to continue her mission in the late 1990s as she began writing a book, "Great Adventures in Food," a recipe book for healthy eating.

While writing the book, she realized she could reach a much wider audience through the Internet.

"The Internet was screaming to me," she said.

Starting with a 14-member advisory board of nutrition experts from around the country, Ms. Haas launched her Web site on Jan. 15. While her initial target audience was college-educated 25- to 55-year-olds, Ms. Haas hopes her site will help her tap into a wider demographic.

"We had the best in nutrition talent, the best in culinary talent, the best in fitness talent. Together, we're building a business," Ms. Haas said.

Users who visit the site (www.foodfit.com) will find a lively colorful page with links to associations, a fitness quiz, recipes and details about vitamins contained in healthy foods.

The content for her site includes information from hundreds of chefs, and links to groups like the American Dietetic Association and the American Council on Exercise.

The advisory board includes nutrition and medical experts from the ADA, Harvard Medical School, Stanford University Medical Center and the Georgetown University Center for Food and Nutrition Policy.

ADA spokesperson Roxanne Moore said that as the Internet phenomenon grows, more people will look to the Web for nutritional advice. She said Foodfit.com is unlike other nutritional Web sites because it is full of information, recipes and even exercise suggestions.

"This is a beautiful Web site," Ms. Moore said. "This is a very genuine and reliable Web site for someone to utilize, and it's well rounded too."

Ms. Moore said not many sites offer real health information. Most sites are either there to strictly sell a product or promote a diet, she said. While Foodfit.com sells products, Ms. Moore suggested that the Web site's sources lend it more credibility.

"You're more likely to get reliable answers to your questions," she said.

By mid-April, the company plans to start the "Foodfit community market" where consumers can buy products and produce and chat with organic food producers.

Ms. Haas emphasized that Foodfit is about a healthy lifestyle that everyone can enjoy rather than some gourmet foods for a specific segment of the population.

"We've done this whole set of personalized tools," she said explaining the healthy weight calculator to help people monitor their caloric intake.

"It's empowering the consumer," she said.

Revenue for the site comes from three sources: advertising, brand licensing and electronic commerce. "We are a rich content site, but it seamlessly leads to a buying experience," Ms. Haas said.

Among the leading advertisers is ConAgra, which owns Healthy Choice. As part of the deal with ConAgra, Foodfit.com gets to print its logo on Healthy Choice packages.

The second revenue stream, the brand licensing, will be offered soon, Ms. Haas said. Local supermarkets will pay Foodfit.com to have a link to their Web sites, and consumers will be able to order their groceries on line via Foodfit.com.

The third source of revenue, electronic commerce, includes selling books, food and other products.

All of this, she said, in addition to writing a book will definitely send a message. "We do it at Internet speed and we've gotten rave reviews," Ms. Haas added.

The opportunity to talk to the vendors, chefs, experts and even getting nutritional information on packaging, is empowering the consumer, Ms. Haas said.

"Healthy eating is the fastest growing segment of the food industry," Ms. Haas said.

Before getting into business she worked for the government as the undersecretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services from 1993 to 1997 during the Clinton administration. Before that, she served as president of the Consumer Federation of America during which she founded Public Voice for Food and Health Policy in 1982.

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