PRIVATE LABEL IS PLAYING HARDBALL, AND IT'S GAINING

MONTVALE, N.J. -- A&P's new America's Choice hard candy line is an example of how private-label nonchocolate confections are beginning to fatten up some candy departments.The A&P line, introduced in November 1996, is available in assorted 10-ounce bags -- starlight mints, butterscotch, sour lemon, hostess mix, root beer barrels and sour balls. The majority of the flavors sell for 99 cents each. A&P

MONTVALE, N.J. -- A&P's new America's Choice hard candy line is an example of how private-label nonchocolate confections are beginning to fatten up some candy departments.

The A&P line, introduced in November 1996, is available in assorted 10-ounce bags -- starlight mints, butterscotch, sour lemon, hostess mix, root beer barrels and sour balls. The majority of the flavors sell for 99 cents each. A&P officials did not respond to phone calls seeking comment on how many store

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