The dairy industry is hoping to turn the tide of consumers eyeing chocolate on Valentine’s Day and pointing more toward cheese.

The American Dairy Association has created a competition to find "America's Greatest Cheese Lover" in an effort to cut a chunk out of U.S. candy makers' $1.9 billion Valentine's Day windfall.

Entrants must describe in 50 words or less how cheese has brought romance into their lives, along with a copy of their most heart-rending dairy recipe.

The rules are that the recipe must contain at least two ounces of American-made cow's milk cheese per serving.

The grand prize winner will be included in the 2003 "Ahh, the power of cheese" ad and receive a trip for two to Vermont's cheese country, a tour of the Cabot Creamery in Montpelier, a three-day, two-night stay in a four-star hotel and a year's supply of cheese.

"Certainly there is a passion out there for cheese," said Kevin Burkum, the Dairy Association's vice president of cheese marketing in Rosemont, Ill.

Also at the Web site, visitors can select cheesy Valentine’s Day gifts from Cupid’s Classic to I’m in the Mood for Cheese.

But its what's inside the packages that counts, and cheese needs to knock chocolate off its secure perch if it ever hopes to conquer the hearts and stomachs of consumers. The dairy association says they're well on their way. Burkum cited Dairy Management, Inc. research that showed cheese is already the No. 1 food craving.

Of course, that finding is one chocolate makers find hard to swallow. Chocolate Manufacturers Association spokeswoman Susan Fussell said there were probably holes in the research.

"The information we have indicates that chocolate is the most craved food in the U.S.," she said, adding that cheese makers are not the first to try to take away that title from chocolate.