Granger Family Committed to Quality Gulf Shrimp and Shrimpers

by / Newsroom Ink on September 6, 2015
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Selling shrimp from a shop in the back of her house, Cheryl Granger are on a mission to elevate the quality of shrimping in the Gulf. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

by Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News Editor

Selling shrimp from a shop in the back of their house in Maurice, LA, Al and Cheryl Granger are on a mission to elevate the quality of shrimping in the Gulf, as well as educate consumers on why it is important to buy Gulf shrimp.

The Granger’s (pronounced Gran-jáy) have been shrimping since the mid 1980’s, when Al left the oil patch and bought his first shrimp boat. They say knowing what you eat is important, and they preach the gospel of buying from someone you trust. When it comes to buying shrimp, the Grangers believe that package should always say wild-caught in the U.S.

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Al and Cheryl Granger have been shrimping since the mid 1980’s, when Al left the oil patch and bought his first shrimp boat. Photo: Granger Seafood

“My husband used to work in the oil field,” explained Cheryl Ganger about how the couple transitioned into the business. “On his days off, he would crawfish in the Atchafalaya Basin where he was born. When he couldn’t crawfish, he was soon shrimping.”

After bouncing from one oilfield job to another in the turbulent 80’s while the industry was in decline, Al finally decided to make a clean break and shrimp fulltime. He told his wife, “It’s time for us to do this.” The couple took the leap and bought a small boat starting their life as full-fledged shrimpers.

From the outset the Grangers decided to direct market their catch to the public and only on occasion would sell their catch to a dock.

“We only sell to the dock at times we have a lot of small shrimp,” explained Cheryl, “We have never ever sold nice shrimp to the docks. When we started we would sell between 100 to 200 pounds of shrimp a week from the house.”

To make ends meet at first, when not shrimping Al would stay up nights fishing for catfish in the Basin.

Al’s love of shrimping combined with Cheryl’s natural ability sell quickly grew the family business. “From the beginning I felt it was important that our customers trust us,” she said sitting in an old office chair placed alongside a table that serves as her outdoor office. “If they trust you they will always be back.”

The Granger’s now shrimp from a 55’ boat named after their daughter, the Brittany G. Fishing in the waters of Vermillion Bay and the inside waters of the Gulf, the lifestyle has become a family affair. “Our kids grew up as a shrimping family and have always helped out when they can,” she said.

Al Granger

After bouncing from one oilfield job to another in the turbulent 80’s while the industry was in decline, Al finally decided to make a clean break and shrimp fulltime. Photo: Granger Seafood

According to the “Queen of Shrimp Sales”, she has a son that would love to be ‘Captain Albert, Jr.”, and her daughter often returns home from her job as chemist for Halliburton to help with the family business.

“I can sell fresh shrimp probably better than anybody else I know in this community because they know what I sell is fresh quality shrimp, not 10-days old,” she said with pride.

The Granger philosophy is that you have to know what your customers want, and they keep a list of their preferred sizes. When a customer calls and says “Hey Cheryl I am ready for some shrimp”, she will not call them till she has the proper size she knows they like.

How many customers does she have? “I can’t even go there, I have no idea,” she said.

Keeping up with technology has been difficult. She still takes all her orders by phone, and freely admits she is technology challenged. Up till two years ago she didn’t know how to turn on a computer and only got her first smart phone last year.

“We like to stay close to home when fishing, but will venture out when necessary,” said Cheryl. “Vermillion Bay white is what made our business. That is what the people down on this end of the state like.”

Shrimp Prices Low

As the price of shrimp at the docks continues to sink lower and lower into a deep abyss, shrimpers are finding it difficult to make a living. “I don’t blame the docks,” she said. “We need to have them. I just don’t know where all these low prices are coming from. It could be the imports, it could be other reasons.”

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“My customer will tell you straight up that he will never shop anyplace else because I will make it right,” said Cheryl Granger with her husband Al. Photo: LSU Sea Grant

“I couldn’t tell you what docks are paying today, but I know it is way, way to low,” she said in her heavy Cajun accent. “I really don’t care because my customers are willing to pay a premium for quality shrimp, usually at least three times the dock price.”

The Louisiana lady is a hard, but fair, negotiator when dealing with her customers. She describes herself as a miser who likes a good deal. “If my boat catches a lot of shrimp I drop the price a little, so the customer can buy more to fill their freezer. “

For Cheryl “a little bit” as no more than 50 cents a pound, she explains when she discounts shrimp so they know they are getting a deal for that day only. She likes to move shrimp fast, and has the “here today, gone tomorrow” philosophy of selling. Customers appreciate her honesty, and she looks at the discounts as kind of a customer loyalty program.

If problems arise her customers know she is only a phone call away and they know she will make good.

In actuality it has only happened once. A new deckhand on the boat accidently mislabeled the size of shrimp in one container. A longtime customer who prefers large shrimp was sold a bag of mixed sized shrimp. When he called and said, “Miss Cheryl, I am kind of disappointed with my shrimp,” she immediately said she would replace the product with fresh shrimp coming off the boat the next day.

“My customer will tell you straight up that he will never shop anyplace else because I will make it right,” said Granger.

Quality is Key

On the boat, shrimp are placed in color-coded sacks that correlate to the size and day caught. A state of the art refrigeration system chills the catch quickly to slightly below freezing, replacing the need for ice.

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In addition to direct marketing from the house, the Grangers have recently ventured into introducing a Granger Seafood Brand of vacuum packed and frozen shrimp. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

“This is one of the best moves we ever made, because the shrimp are incredible. The near freezing water slushes along with the shrimp, giving them a nice wash. So you don’t have shrimp flattened by the weight of ice,” said the sales queen. “The quality of the shrimp stays high for days without the use of any additives.”

In addition to direct marketing from the house, the Grangers have recently ventured into introducing a Granger Seafood Brand of vacuum packed and frozen shrimp.

The new brand came about when Mitch Polito, a local packer who had worked with the Vermillion Bay shrimp brand, offered to brand their shrimp. Both were skeptical at first because of a bad experience a few years prior that lost the family money. “I have been taken for a ride once, and I had no real intention of getting in that car again,” she explained.

It turned out Polito was not looking for an investment, but instead a partner who could deliver the highest quality shrimp. He told the couple “he had been watching their effort for years and were proud of their boat and people the people they were”.

“Tears came to my eyes when he said that,” said Cheryl. “Mitch is so caring about the industry.”

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The Grangers currently work with more than 15 shrimp captains and crew to ensure the proper handling of shrimp so the product they produce is the highest quality. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

The two parties teamed up to form a partnership that currently operates a small processing and packinghouse in Delcambe. Early this year labels and the bags were ordered and shrimp began to flow across the sorting tables.

The new line of Granger frozen shrimp features one pound bags of Vermillion Bay Sweet white shrimp in a 70-90 peeled count, a 31-35 peeled and deveined and a 26-30 hand peeled and deveined – all with no chemicals added. A five-pound box of 31-35 unpeeled tails for boiling is also sold.

With the new partnership, Granger says she can also do specialty packaging of any size shrimp for customers. She also realizes the need for outside assistance to move the product all over the world, but knows they will succeed.

Sales of the product are currently targeted to stores and markets within a forty-mile radius of Lafayette. Her current distribution might be limited, but not her sales drive. She is in the process of establishing partners to expand nationwide. “I have been trying to get my foot in the door with Whole Foods Market forever,” she said. “Its coming, I know it’s coming.”

According to Granger, the product has been very successful. It has a great taste and people are continuing to come back for more. The pitfall in the operation is juggling time between selling the product to stores and continuing to operate the backyard sales at home. She wishes she could clone herself four times over.

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The new line of Granger frozen shrimp features one pound bags of Vermillion Bay Sweet white shrimp in a 70-90 peeled count, a 31-35 peeled and deveined and a 26-30 hand peeled and deveined – all with no chemicals added. A five-pound box of 31-35 unpeeled tails for boiling is also sold. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

“I still sell all the fresh shrimp from my boat I can, the rest we send to processing,” said Granger about the new partnership. “We are also working with other local shrimpers to buy their product so they can receive a decent price so they don’t die, because the industry is dying and we have to stick together and help one another.”

The Grangers currently work with more than 15 shrimp captains and crew to ensure the proper handling of shrimp so the product they produce is the highest quality. The higher quality allows her to sell their shrimp at a higher price. She admits she is very particular and demands they do it just like her operation.

“These shrimpers are committed to working with us and are producing a great product,” said Granger. “ If shrimpers have to sell to the dock in a year like this, we will all have to tie the rope up and park the boat.”

Buy Gulf Shrimp

Working closely with LSU Sea Grant, she says the partnership has taken over the packaging of their Vermillion Bay Sweet Shrimp Brand. She praises the organization for the wonderful job they have done to educate shrimpers on new methods to produce a higher quality fresh shrimp.

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Sea Grant’s Mark Shirley (r) explains programs like Granger’s have given consumers a new source of chemical free, quality shrimp they can eat with confidence. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

Sea Grant’s Mark Shirley explains programs like Granger’s have given consumers a new source of chemical free, quality shrimp they can eat with confidence. Their research has found consumers want to buy from people they know and trust, and the Granger name has been associated with quality shrimp for more than 30 years.

“In this day of traceability from sea to table, consumers want to know their local fisherman so they don’t have to worry “where in the world did it come from” and who actually caught it,” said Shirley. “This and other similar products will catch on outside of Southern Louisiana, it is only a matter of time.”

Granger knows that local fishermen are weathering storms and working hard to make a living. When consumers buy local shrimp, it benefits both consumers and Gulf shrimpers. She hopes seafood customers examine the packaging to find out where their shrimp are actually caught. “Here in the Gulf we put the correct weight and the correct quality of chemical free shrimp in our product.”

Years of working with large amounts of shrimp has ruined her back and caused other health problems, but she still loves what she does. “As long as God lets me keep doing it, I’ll keep selling the shrimp because shrimping is my husband’s love,” she said getting up from her chair to wait on a new customer.

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About the Author

About the Author: Ed Lallo is the former editor of Gulf Seafood News and CEO of Newsroom Ink, an online brand journalism agency. .

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  1. Great article. Good for y’all getting started and establishing this brand. Getting shrimp out there to the consumer, not just in the coastal communities is key!

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