(Sept. 24) Sunny Cove Citrus LLC, Orange Cove, Calif., is expanding its fresh citrus inventory by adding lemons to its offerings and a lemon line to the company’s central California packinghouse.

The strategy behind the expansion involves providing customers a one-stop location for citrus.

“There’s more and more pressure on keeping transportation costs in line,” said Keith Wilson, vice president of sales and marketing for Sunny Cove Citrus. “We realized we needed to have a more rounded supply of citrus products.”

Wilson would not disclose the cost of installing the new lemon packing line but said Sunny Cove was able to minimize costs.

“We were able to purchase a line from another packer and to install the line in our plant,” he said.

The long-range goal for Sunny Cove, the exclusive West Coast packer of citrus products for Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Green Giant Fresh, is annual lemon volume of 500,000 cartons. Wilson said the company hopes to reach that goal in three to five years.

This year, however, retailers and foodservice may have to scramble to find enough lemons. Wilson said the overall California lemon crop will be down because the January freeze wiped out large chunks of the early blooming varieties.

The California lemon harvest is expected to begin the third week in October, about the same time the first navel oranges will be picked, Wilson said. Sunny Cove plans to begin marketing lemons and navels by the end of October, he said.