By Doug Ohlemeier, The Packer

LAKELAND, Fla. â€Â” Trying to add some muscle to its marketing efforts, the Florida Department of Citrus is proposing an increase in fresh promotions for the next season.

The department wants to boost grapefruit promotion funding 6% from last yearâ€Â™s $15.6 million to $16.6 million for the new season. For fresh orange and specialty citrus promotions, the agency suggests increasing marketing programs 29% from last yearâ€Â™s $1.4 million to the coming seasonâ€Â™s $1.8 million.

The additional money for grapefruit promotion would involve funds that the agency shelved last year because of the smaller-than-normal harvest size, said Andrew Meadows, a department spokesman.

The increases, however, are contingent on industry approval of the agency hiking box tax rates from 1 to 2 cents a box for fresh oranges and specialty oranges, such as tangerines, to 5 cents a box for grapefruit.

Californiaâ€Â™s January freeze helped create interest in Florida citrus, said Leigh Killeen, the departmentâ€Â™s domestic marketing manager.

â€ÂœWe got some traction in talking about the unique qualities of our fruit in Florida,â€Â she said. â€ÂœWe know our fruit doesnâ€Â™t look like other fruit, but itâ€Â™s beautiful, tasty and juicy inside. We can build on this opportunity and expand on that this coming year.â€Â

The agency plans to create a dedicated Web site to cover all aspects of grapefruit, Killeen said. The site, designed to help form a purchasing relationship and build consumer loyalty to grapefruit, would showcase the Florida fruit, she said. The department plans to develop blogs and other nontraditional online media to create some buzz and excitement about grapefruit.

â€ÂœWe want to move this product,â€Â Killeen said. â€ÂœBecause weâ€Â™ve been out of the market, we havenâ€Â™t talked to consumers about grapefruit. We want to encourage people to come back to buying grapefruit.â€Â