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Henry Branstetter

(1914 to 2008)


Henry Branstetter, former President of Ocean Garden Products, Inc., and one of the pioneers of the USA shrimp industry, died on Sunday, March 2, 2008, in Wilmington, North Carolina.  He was 94.


Born in Indianapolis in 1914, Henry was valedictorian of his high school class, received a full scholarship at DePauw University, where he was an honors student, and an MBA from Stanford University Business School in 1939.  He was a lifetime member of the Stanford University Business School Alumni Association.


Henry worked for Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in Burbank, California, until he joined the Navy in 1943.  During the war, he was a lieutenant in the USA Navy Corps in Philadelphia, where his primary responsibility was maintaining spare parts for naval aircraft during the war.


His first introduction to frozen foods was with John Ingles in Modesto, California, in 1946.  From there, he went to Wilbur-Ellis in San Francisco, the nation’s leading seafood importer at that time.  In 1950, he married Frances Wayland and became father to her two children, Suzanne and Ernie.  In that same year, the family moved to New York, and Henry became the seafood division manager for Wilbur-Ellis New York .  The family lived in Bronxville, New York, for the next seven years.


In 1957, Henry was recruited by the Crest Importing Company in San Diego, California, the county’s largest importer of frozen shrimp, and rose to the position of Vice President of Sales and Marketing.


In 1964, he was hired by Ocean Garden Products, Inc., San Diego, California, as President and CEO.  Over the next 14 years, Ocean Garden became one of the nation’s largest and most recognizable seafood companies, specializing in imported shrimp from Mexico.  He was instrumental in the merger of Crest Importing Company into Ocean Garden in 1975.  Henry retired from Ocean Garden in 1977.


After retirement, he formed the Cultured Seafood Institute, a public relations and consulting firm specializing in mariculture products.  Over the next 15 years, he traveled to over 40 countries, assisting producers in their efforts to market their products to the USA.  He wrote widely on shrimp issues, and for a time published a specialized shrimp marketing report.


Henry lived in La Jolla, California, for 50 years and was a member of Rotary International for 39 years.  He is survived by his stepdaughter, Suzanne Moss, and his stepson, Ernie Wayland, both of Wilmington, North Carolina.


Shrimp News: In the 1980s and 1990s, I had lunch with Henry every couple of years, most frequently at the La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla, California, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Henry was acutely interested in the development of world shrimp farming and exceptionally knowledgeable about the development of world shrimp markets during the second half of the 20th century, so we always had great discussions.  Charles Peckham, at the time the editor of the LMR Shrimp Market Report, joined us for many of the lunches.  Without apologies, the only thing we ever talked about was shrimp.  Henry always picked up the check.


After the last lunch, Henry invited me back to his apartment and gave me all the publications that he had purchased from me over a twenty-five year period, many of them filling gaps in my own collection!


Sources: 1. Seafood.com (an online, subscription-based, fisheries news service).  Henry Branstetter, a pioneer in the U.S. shrimp industry, dies at age 94.  Editor and Publisher, John Sackton (phone 781-861-1441, email jsackton@seafood.com).  March 4, 2008.  2. Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International, March 8, 2008.



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