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STATE TO DISTRIBUTE 2ND ROUND OF GROCERY COUPONS IN WNY

Western New York consumers will receive a second round of special grocery coupons via their Sept. 13 Sunday newspapers.

The state attorney general's office will distribute some 1.3 million general-use coupons, worth $2 apiece, via 22 upstate newspapers, including The Buffalo News.

The coupons, which are the fruits of a settlement between the attorney general's office and a number of grocery products companies, can be used to purchase virtually any grocery or household product, with the exception of alcohol or tobacco.

As with the first round of coupons, consumers will find the money-savers among the stack of manufacturers' coupons and advertising circulars in home-delivered newspapers and papers purchased at stores. The coupons will not be distributed via papers sold in vending boxes.

In some rural areas, the coupons will be carried by local weeklies, which will arrive later in the week.

Mike Zabel, spokesman for the attorney general's Buffalo office, said Western and Central New York shoppers saved $1.7 million by redeeming the $2.50 coupons which were distributed in May 17 newspapers. Between mid-May and the July 1 expiration date, consumers turned in a total of 692,577 coupons.

That represents an amazing 53 percent redemption rate, far exceeding the 2 percent redemption rate for a typical "cents-off" coupon and also surpassing Western New York's usual 4 percent coupon-use rate.

"The response to the first coupon drop was nothing short of remarkable," Zabel said Thursday. "In fact, we decided to distribute $2 coupons, instead of $2.50 coupons, to make sure we don't overdraw the settlement fund."

The coupons to be circulated Sept. 13 extend for a 45-day period which expires Oct. 27.

There is still the possibility of a third coupon distribution later in the year, if the entire settlement fund is not depleted through the Sept. 13 coupon circulation.

The coupons result from a legal settlement involving Wegmans Food Pharmacy, Procter & Gamble and several other grocery companies, which were the focus of an attorney general's investigation into an alleged conspiracy to reduce and/or eliminate coupons in Western and Central New York. The office collected $4.2 million from the various companies, but with interest, the fund has grown to more than $4.5 million.

The money represents the largest cash payout to state consumers resulting from an antitrust suit.

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