Hugh Hinton “Chip” Branch Jr., one of the owners of the Branch corn shipping empire, is being remembered as a sweet corn leader and innovator.

Chip Branch, 60, co-owner and packinghouse and precooler manager of Pahokee, Fla.-based Hugh H. Branch Inc., died his sleep on Aug. 6.

In the produce industry for 45 years, Branch grew up working alongside his father, Hugh H. Branch, Sr., who founded in 1957 what would become one of the world’s largest fresh sweet corn shipping operations.

In 2006, Chip Branch joined company salesmen Brett Bergmann and Dan Shiver in purchasing the company, which markets up to 20,000 acres of sweet corn, green beans and lettuces. The company grows and sells corn in Florida, Georgia, Missouri and Colorado.

Bergmann called Chip Branch a people person who could make strangers quickly feel comfortable.

“He was critical to the company’s success,” Bergmann said. “He was instrumental in guiding Branch’s purchase of the U.S. Sugar facility in South Bay (Fla.). Chip probably understood more about the quality of sweet corn than anyone.

“He was an innovator who was always looking for new ideas and different ways of doing things and knew the needs of the customers,” Bergmann.

Visitation is scheduled for Aug. 12 at the Glades Funeral Chapel, Belle Glade, Fla., with services scheduled Aug. 13 at the First United Methodist Church in Pahokee.

Survivors include a daughter, Holly, grandson, Shaun, parents Hugh and Barbara Branch, and sisters Tammy and Kimberly.