(Aug. 22) WENATCHEE, Wash. — The Washington Apple Commission will tie apples to good health and weight loss in a planned cross-promotion and contest with Gold’s Gym called the Gold’s Gym Challenge.

The program, set to begin Jan. 1, incorporates three apples a day in a diet and exercise plan designed to accelerate fat loss. It is timed to fit in with New Year’s resolutions.

The goal, from the commission’s perspective, is to make apples synonymous with slimming down and fitness, said Tom Swearingen, advertising and public relations director for the Washington Apple Commission.

Specially designed boxes, bin wrap and bags will help retailers promote a contest held as part of the challenge. Bags of apples will have contest rules and eligibility requirements for contestants to win $500,000 in cash prices.

Each bag will contain a coupon, valued at $50, for two free weeks at any Gold’s Gym.Swearingen said he estimates the promotion and contest will help sell an additional 6 million 42-pound boxes of Washington apples in 2003. The commission expects 15,000 retail stores across the U.S. to sign on to the Gold’s Gym Challenge.

The challenge runs for a 12-week period and entries will be accepted until April 30.

By entering the contest, consumers receive a “Get Lean Diet and 3-Apple Answer” kit from Gold’s Gym. The kit has tips on how to succeed in the program and menu plans for each meal.

Contest entrants who don’t have a Gold’s Gym nearby have the same chances of winning as a Gold’s Gym member. While consumers in the areas without a Gold’s Gym will not benefit from the two-week membership to the gym, they can receive discounts on merchandise that can be purchased through www.goldsgym.com.

Retailers not located near a Gold’s Gym will have the same access to the specially bagged apples and promotional materials as long as the retailer’s apple supplier is packing in the Gold’s Gym tie-in materials.

“This approach makes it easy for anyone in the country to get involved,” said Norm Carpenter, vice president of domestic marketing. “We don’t want to exclude any retailer or consumer from this opportunity.”

The commission will support the tie-in program with a consumer advertising campaign.

Carpenter said he believes the program will inspire retailers because an apple tie-in with a gym is a new kind of promotion.

One of the unique parts of the program is the push to eat three apples a day. Wenatchee Gold’s Gym dietitian Tammi Flynn was the first to notice that eating three apples a day — one before each meal — seemed to contribute to greater fat loss.

The gym had sponsored a fitness challenge for several years using cash prizes and heavy promotion to encourage Wenatchee members to get in shape. Flynn asked challenge participants to eat one apple before each meal to increase their fresh produce intake.

Flynn said after reviewing hundreds of contestants’ food diaries, she began to notice that people who followed her apple advice had greater fat loss. She suggested that her three-apples-a-day recommendation become part of the gym’s “Get in Shape” program for 2001.

As a result, the Wenatchee gym contestants recorded the highest level of fast loss compared to all of Gold’s 675 gyms in the U.S. and abroad.