(Nov. 12, 2:19 p.m.) VERO BEACH, Fla. — Premier Citrus Packers LLC continues to expand despite recent acreage cuts by other companies involved in the Indian River citrus deal.

The grower-shipper has also brought in more citrus to sell.

While the region’s grapefruit bearing acreage has declined 48% from 118,000 acres in 2000 to 56,800 acres in 2008, Premier’s acreage and sales have increased significantly.

Premier has added Bruce Stayer on domestic sales. Stayer, who used to be sales manager for Lake Placid Groves LLC, Lake Placid, for three years, brings his customers to the Premier deal.

Lake Placid closed its packinghouse two years ago and stopped its sales at the end of last season, said Richard Miller, Premier’s domestic sales manager. Lake Placid, he said, use to pack up to 2 million cartons a season.

Premier plans to add the Lake Placid label to its main domestic label, Premier, and a handful of other export labels.

Premier is folding the Lake Placid fruit into its Vero Beach packing line. Running the south-central Florida fruit will necessitate Premier adding a second shift to its packinghouse operations. Premier will require two additional packinghouses to handle all the volume the company now has, Miller said.

“We are growing exponentially this season,” Miller said. “We are the new kid on the block. This is only our second year in the domestic deal.

“We are excited about bringing in the Lake Placid program. The ability to offer that much more volume and many more labels to our customers gives us the opportunity to reach out to more people.”

With the Lake Placid addition, Premier plans to pack up to 3.5 million equivalent boxes of grapefruit, oranges and tangerines this season, up considerably from the 2 million cartons it packed last season.

Grapefruit accounts for about half of Premier’s volume, with oranges and tangerines each representing a quarter of sales, Miller said.

Bill Jarvis, Premier’s European sales manager, has been promoted to the company’s director of sales and marketing.

Miller said the promotion of Jarvis shows that Premier continues to grow and has more organized efforts into sales.

While Jarvis plans to continue doing European sales, he said his new position, which he started in June, will bring Premier’s growers and customers together and match its customers with the highest usage of Premier’s citrus.

“Customer service is the only way we can add value to the product,” Jarvis said. “It’s a sign of the times that the only way someone can really survive is to supply customers with a quality product that’s treated as a product of desire and not just an everyday commodity. You have to service all markets with all sizes and all varieties.”

One key selling point of Premier is its vertical integration. Jarvis points to its traceability and control of product from grove to packinghouse. That kind of service, Jarvis said, is different from broker buyers who don’t have total control over their citrus.