SWEEPSTAKES FOCUSES ON FOOD LABELS

OMAHA, Neb. -- A nationwide Nutrition Facts Label Sweepstakes that aims to teach consumers about the new food label format is set to get under way this week.The sweepstakes, with $1 million in prizes, is the brainchild of Phil Sokolof, president of the National Heart Savers Association here, and has been endorsed by the Food Marketing Institute, Washington.It runs from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31, and

OMAHA, Neb. -- A nationwide Nutrition Facts Label Sweepstakes that aims to teach consumers about the new food label format is set to get under way this week.

The sweepstakes, with $1 million in prizes, is the brainchild of Phil Sokolof, president of the National Heart Savers Association here, and has been endorsed by the Food Marketing Institute, Washington.

It runs from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31, and will be merchandised through broadcast announcements and full-page ads in leading newspapers. A billboard in the heart of New York City's Times Square will also tout the sweepstakes.

FMI sent a letter to its members alerting them to the sweepstakes. Signed by Tim Hammonds, FMI's president and chief executive officer, the letter emphasized that there are no fees or costs to retailers for participating.

The exact number of stores participating could not be determined. Sherry Rosenblatt, manager, media relations at FMI, said the association has heavily promoted the sweepstakes. "So far, the response has been very good," she told SN.

In another letter to supermarket operators, Sokolof said, "I am deeply dedicated to helping the American public take advantage of the 'Nutrition Facts' labels, a vital health resource enabling consumers to make informed food choices and live longer, healthier lives."

Food and public health are apparently a recurring theme for Sokolof. Several years ago, he launched a brief but high-profile advertising campaign in major newspapers that criticized fast food chains for selling fatty hamburgers. Sokolof declined to be interviewed for this article.

Kroger Co., Cincinnati, and A&P, Montvale, N.J., are among the chains participating in the sweepstakes.

Paul Bernish, director of public affairs for Kroger, said at least six of the company's 16 divisions have agreed to participate in the sweepstakes. "We expect to put up the display with the entry forms at the customer service desk. National Heart Savers Association will do all of the advertising," he said.

Bernish added that this was the largest national supermarket sweepstakes, not sponsored by a manufacturer, that he had ever seen.

William Vitulli, vice president of government and community relations at A&P said that every store operated by the company in the United States will participate in the sweepstakes.

"As a retailer we are strongly behind all nutritional information which can be given to consumers and this is an excellent source of this new legislation and labeling being distributed by way of publicity," Vitulli said.

Participating retailers were sent 500 entries in a self-contained display carton for distribution, a master entry form that can be photocopied and newspaper ad slicks.

To participate, consumers pick up an entry blank in the store and fill it out, answering a few questions about the new nutrition label requirements. They send it to National Heart Savers Association, where forms with correct answers are entered into the sweepstakes.