STORES OFFER FREE BOXES OF MATZOH AT PASSOVER

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. -- Price Chopper Supermarkets here, among others, offered free matzohs this Passover season, as the Jewish holiday promotions seemed to become more competitive.The City of New York Department of Consumer Affairs found that overall prices for Passover products fell 2% from the same period last year, and were down 3% in the weeks leading to the holiday.Price Chopper's four-page Passover

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. -- Price Chopper Supermarkets here, among others, offered free matzohs this Passover season, as the Jewish holiday promotions seemed to become more competitive.

The City of New York Department of Consumer Affairs found that overall prices for Passover products fell 2% from the same period last year, and were down 3% in the weeks leading to the holiday.

Price Chopper's four-page Passover ad was inserted into the chain ad for the week of April 9, showing any 5-pound package of matzohs, domestic or imported, free with a $75 purchase. Price Chopper also advertised in Jewish publications in the beginning of March. The store also offered a nine-day trip to Israel, which consumers entered automatically each time they used the AdvantEdge loyalty-club card. The sweepstakes ran through April 29.

"It's going very well," said Joanne Gage, spokeswoman for Price Chopper. "It's always a big buying holiday, but [lately] we find a lot of our non-Jewish customers see the quality of the items and enjoy purchasing them." New for Passover 2000 at the stores were several items, such as Streit's croutons and Barraccini chocolate.

Waldbaum's advertised imported Aviv matzoh, a 5-pound box free with a $25 purchase, or $3.99 on sale; or the same size box of Streit's, Manischewitz, Horowitz or Goodman's matzoh free with a $50 purchase, or $4.99 on sale. A&P, Montvale, N.J., Waldbaum's parent company, offered any of those five brands of matzoh free with a $25 purchase and the Bonus card. Key Food, Brooklyn, N.Y., also had the Streit's, Manischewitz, Horowitz or Goodman's free with a $50 purchase.

In New York City, at least, Passover food prices were down, according to a new city market basket survey. The 16th annual survey of 94 stores in the city -- including supermarkets, independent retailers, and meat and fish markets -- showed a 3% decline in average prices between February and March, and a 2% decline in average prices comparing March 2000 with March 1999.

The comparison between February and March did not include matzoh, matzoh meal and macaroons. The average price for a 5-pound box of matzoh remained unchanged from last year's prices, at $6.11 at both supermarkets and independent stores, according to Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jane S. Hoffman. A statement from her office noted that consumers would usually see a greater price cut at supermarkets for their Passover items. Hoffman made the announcement at the Pathmark unit at 227 Cherry St., the supermarket with the lowest priced market basket in the borough of Manhattan.