RETAILERS RISE TO THE OCCASION WITH MATZO

NEW YORK - Passover begins at sundown on Wednesday, and with it come annual retail promotions for free and discounted matzo, the official food of the holiday.Discounts were better just a few years ago, when some chains offered free matzo with a smaller purchase and sometimes no purchase requirement at all."They used to treat it like a turkey [Thanksgiving promotion]," said Howard Breitowich, senior

NEW YORK - Passover begins at sundown on Wednesday, and with it come annual retail promotions for free and discounted matzo, the official food of the holiday.

Discounts were better just a few years ago, when some chains offered free matzo with a smaller purchase and sometimes no purchase requirement at all.

"They used to treat it like a turkey [Thanksgiving promotion]," said Howard Breitowich, senior category manager for kosher at Tree of Life, a specialty food distributor based in St. Augustine, Fla.

Cost was the likely reason for the change, said Marcia Mogelonsky, senior market analyst for research firm Mintel International Group, Chicago.

This year, retailers are using circular coupons and automatic savings with the use of loyalty cards for specials on 5-pound packages of imported and domestic matzo. Most require a minimum purchase of $50.

"Matzo promotions are important because if you're competitive with matzo, you'll get people into the store to buy the rest of their Passover food," Mogelonsky said.

Stop & Shop in Quincy, Mass., a division of Ahold USA, distributed circular coupons for a free 5-pound box of imported Aviv or Yehuda matzo with a $50 purchase.

Another Stop & Shop coupon was good for a 5-pound box of domestic matzo from Streit's, Goodman's, Horowitz or Manischewitz for $2.99, also with a $50 purchase.

"Retailers in Northeast are very aggressive with their positions on matzo," Breitowich said.

Among this year's offers:

At Waldbaum's, a banner of A&P, Montvale, N.J., imported Yehuda, Aviv or Rakusen 5-pound boxes are 99 cents with a $50 purchase. Limit one package. No coupon is needed. Also at Waldbaum's, Streit's, Manischewitz or Horowitz is $1.99 with a $50 purchase. Limit one package. No coupon needed.

At Pathmark, Carteret, N.J., a 5-pound box of an imported brand is free with a $50 purchase and circular coupon. Domestic matzo is $2.99 with $50 purchase and circular coupon. Limit one.

King Kullen, Bethpage, N.Y., is selling domestic matzo for $1.99 with coupon and a $50 purchase.

At ShopRite, part of Wakefern Food Corp., Elizabeth, N.J., Rokeach handmade matzo is $2 with coupon.

Winn-Dixie Stores, Jacksonville, Fla., printed circular coupons for $2 off a 5-pound box of Manischewitz.

Other retailers are more conservative. Safeway in Pleasanton, Calif., for instance, advertised 5-pound boxes of Manischewitz or Streit's for $7.99 with loyalty card.