Fifty new Haagen-Dazs shops planned for China

NEW YORK (AP) -- General Mills Inc. plans to open another 50 Haagen-Dazs ice cream shops in China over the next year, bringing its total in the country to 255.

The Minneapolis-based company, which makes popular brands including Cheerios, Yoplait and Betty Crocker, said Tuesday that it also plans to expand the ice cream's retail distribution in the fast growing market. The first Haagen-Dazs store in China opened in 1996.

Like other food companies, General Mills is increasingly looking to expand overseas as growth at home slows.

A decade ago, General Mills notes just 10 percent of its sales came from outside the United States. Today, international sales account for 30 percent of revenue.

When entering foreign markets, U.S. companies have learned that adapting to local tastes can accelerate growth even for flagship brands. For example, Haagen-Dazs stores in China offer ice cream flavors such as green tea hibiscus and sell moon cakes during the mid-Autumn harvest festival.

At its investor conference Tuesday in New York, General Mills said that emerging markets such as China, India and Brazil will be among of its top priorities in the years ahead. Gary Chu, president of General Mills in China, noted that the ranks of middle-class and affluent households in China are expected to double by 2020.

General Mills owns Haagen-Dazs globally, including approximately 200 stores in Europe. In the United States and Canada, the brand is operated under a licensing agreement by Nestle.

General Mills' other key brands in China include Wanchai Ferry frozen meals, Trix and Bugles, which the company offers in local flavors such as seaweed.

Its shares rose 7 cents to $38.52 in afternoon trading Tuesday. They are closer to the high end of their 52-week range of $34.64 to $41.06.