New brand to promote Florida tangerines, endangered animalTwo longtime Florida citrus grower-shippers are launching a citrus brand to increase tangerine consumption and help save an endangered species.

During the January start of Florida"s honey tangerine harvest, Sunshine Story LLC plans to market the Legend of the Sun Lion-branded Florida tangerines to revive tangerine demand and help the Florida panther.

Marty McKenna, chairman of the Bartow-based Florida Citrus Commission and president of Sebring, Fla.-based McKenna &amp Associates Citrus Inc. Vic Story Jr., immediate past president of Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Mutual and vice chairman and president of the Lake Wales, Fla.-based the Story Cos. and partner David Gornoski, a marketing executive, started the Lakeland, Fla.-based venture this summer.

New brand to promote Florida tangerines, endangered animalGornoski, president, said Sunshine Story plans to focus its 3-pound mesh bags on Florida retailers and said the company is developing a public relations campaign to motivate families to eat fresh Florida tangerines.

"This is really a unique way to get kids and young families excited to eat Florida citrus," Gornoski said. "We have looked at ways to develop a consumer brand orientation for Florida fresh fruit. Florida citrus has a lot of latent consumer brand power that"s not being tapped into the way it should be, particularly for the youngest generation.

"This campaign introduces a real-life icon, the Florida panther, to get kids learning about the importance of conservation and at the same time, use it as an opportunity to promote local, Florida citrus."

New brand to promote Florida tangerines, endangered animalThe company is pledging 10% of its net profits to fund panther conservation efforts.

Developing an illustrated children"s book to tell the story of the fictional Sun Lion panther, the grassroots campaign represents a Florida comeback story for the panther as well as the tangerine, Gornoski said.

Fewer than 200 panthers are estimated to remain in the wild, he said.

Gornoski, who previously worked in marketing primarily in the entertainment world, declined to state acreage and volume but said the company is working with several central Florida citrus packinghouses to keep the local focus of the brand.