LENEXA, Kan. — The Packer has expanded its online reach with the acquisition of the social network Produce Universe.

Vance Publishing Corporation, publisher of The Packer, announced the deal to add Produce Universe (www.produceuniverse.com) Aug. 29.

Created in 2011, Produce Universe was founded by Brent Erenwert, vice president of Houston-based Brothers Produce and developed by Chris Jones. Erenwert will retain his position at Brothers Produce but will serve as consultant, leader and network administrator for Produce Universe under The Packer umbrella, said Shawn Etheridge, vice president and publishing director for agribusiness at Vance.

“We’re very proud of our history of service to the produce market and excited to be expanding our service footprint even further with this acquisition,” Etheridge said. “We see a clear opportunity in fresh produce to bring a key aspect of the marketplace activity online.”

That opportunity will benefit from the strength of the Produce Universe brand and its already established online trading community, he said.

The Packer plans to use the Produce Universe brand to build capabilities in sourcing data, online search and building utility in its online directory, producemarketguide.com, he said. The aim is to provide sales and trading functionality for the fresh produce industry supply chain.

Erenwert said he looks forward to working with The Packer on the vision of a trading platform for the fresh produce industry. Produce traders need efficiencies an online forum can provide, he said.

Erenwert said he will bring an “in the trenches” role as consultant to The Packer.

“Our industry moves so fast and things change so much, the vision was to create a place to where if somebody needed to reach the masses with a touch of a button they could do that,” Erenwert said.

With new smartphone and online channels to help accomplish those goals, he believes the vision will succeed.

“It is going to be a fun ride.”