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State Entrepreneurs Produce Ideal Gifts
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Honor Mississippi's product accomplishments by selecting gifts made in the state for anyone on your gift list.
"Mississippi's entrepreneurial spirit has always been strong, and it's growing stronger every day," said Ann Sansing of Mississippi State University's Extension Service's Food and Fiber Center. "With specialty food manufacturers in 37 Mississippi counties, there is something for everyone when it comes to gift buying."
Sansing said specialty foods make ideal gifts for the easily pleased person and those hard-to-buy-for people who have everything.
"You can please anyone with food. It's always the right size and always the right color," she said. "Entire party menus can be planned around Mississippi products from the hors d'oeuvres to the barbeque sauce on the meat to the desserts."
Sansing said Mississippi specialty foods is a young industry, but already represents $21 million in sales and payrolls of more than $4 million annually. New market channels are opening rapidly for the specialty food industry. Retailers of products that are not primarily food related are seeking to increase their service and product offerings and have incorporated specialty food items to meet that need.
"The expertise and knowledge Mississippi specialty food manufacturers and retailer owners have acquired have positioned Mississippi specialty foods to be well-known Southern products in the gourmet industry," Sansing said.
Mississippi specialty foods can be found in gourmet/gift shops, grocery chains, some bookstores, florist shops, hotels, bakeries, delis and even a few hair salons. Some manufacturing companies and retail shops have web sites and others are in the process of providing this service.
The Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce has launched a marketing program called "Make Mine Mississippi" to promote the state's products.
"One of our goals is to keep Mississippi dollars in Mississippi," said Michele Hoke, marketing specialist in the Market Development Division of MDAC. "The program builds on the state's reputation for quality products in an effort to increase sales."
About 320 companies from across the state are in the Make Mine Mississippi program. Company sizes range from small "mom-and-pop" businesses to internationally known companies. Products represented are equally diverse including foods, outdoor goods, crafts, electronics and furniture, with about 75 percent of the participants connected with agriculture.
"Mississippi has a lot to be proud of. We have a rich diversity of extremely talented people who work very hard producing quality items," Hoke said. "Supporting Mississippi businesses not only contributes to our tax base, it also creates and supports jobs in the state."
Hoke said there is no cost to be included in the Make Mine Mississippi database. Participating companies receive certificates, logo use and other promotional assistance, including an upcoming radio campaign to encourage support of in-state businesses.