International Business Growth Will Drive These Global Foods Giants Forward

Markets abroad, especially in emerging regions such as Asia-Pacific and Latin America, have huge growth potential for global food businesses like General Mills (NYSE: GIS  ) , Danone (NASDAQOTH: DANOY  ) and Mondelez (NASDAQ: MDLZ  ) . In fact, all three businesses have experienced decent growth in their international businesses.

General Mills' high growth in the Latin America and Asia-Pacific regions
For fiscal year 2013, the international business of General Mills generated around $5.2 billion in sales, which accounted for more than 29% of total revenue. General Mills delivered 24% growth on the top line, while its bottom line increased by 14% to $490 million, which includes the negative effects of Venezuelan currency devaluation. While General Mills grew around 11% in both the Europe and the Asia-Pacific regions, the business in Latin America had the strongest growth of 139%, driven by the acquisition of Yoki Alimentos SA in Brazil. 

In the first quarter of fiscal 2014, the international segment of General Mills reported that sales rose by 25% on a constant-currency basis, led by Latin America. The company reported that with the contribution from Yoki Alimentos, Latin America's top line advanced by nearly three times. The Asia-Pacific region's growth reached 13% in the quarter, led by double-digit growth in Greater China supported by the two main brands Haagen-Dazs and Wanchai Ferry, the latter of which makes frozen dim sum items. Although China's GDP growth has slowed from around 9% in 2011 to only 7.5% this year, the company believes that China's consumer goods industry will keep growing solidly because the nation has the world's biggest population and a growing middle class. 

Danone is turning around its European business
Danone is truly a global food conglomerate with operations in around 80 countries. In the first nine months of 2013, Danone experienced good operating performance in many major markets, which included 12.6% sales growth in Asia-Pacific/Latin America/Middle East/Africa, or ALMA, and a 9.9% sales rise in the Common Wealth of Independent States, or CIS, and North America.

However, the business has struggled in the European region with a year-over-year sales decline of 3%. As Europe accounts for nearly 40% of Danone's total business, improvement in Europe is one of the most important factors for driving the profitability of Danone. Danone intends to step up the pace of updates to its product ranges and plans to reach a target of EUR 200 million, or $269 million, in cost savings by 2014. Danone expects ALMA to be buoyant with ongoing double-digit growth.

Recently, Danone got hit in Asia by Fonterra's false safety alert issue, which made the company recall some selected infant formula products in nine Asian market,s including China.  However, it is only a temporary issue.  Danone still believes in the huge long-term growth potential of emerging markets like Asia-Pacific and Latin America.

Mondelez is bullish on China for the long run
Among the three, Mondelez will benefit the most from growth in emerging markets because of its high level of business exposure. While Europe accounts for 39% of its total turnover, emerging regions including Eastern Europe, Middle East & Africa (EEMEA), Latin America, Asia-Pacific represents 41% of its total sales. In the past three quarters, Mondelez's operation in the emerging markets has kept improving, from 9.4% sales growth in the first quarter to 9.7% in the second quarter and 10.7% in the third quarter. The main driver for this impressive performance was the double-digit growth in the BRIC markets (Brazil, Russia, India and China).

Like General Mills, Mondelez was also affected by the slowdown in the overall Chinese economy. Its biscuit category dropped from 18% sales growth in 2012 to only 3% growth in the first quarter. In order to offset that decline, Mondelez focused on category growth, stimulating marketing and sales support for the Oreo and Chips Ahoy! brands. However, it will take time for those investments to materialize. Despite short-term challenges, the company remains quite optimistic about China's future. Its organic revenue experienced 25% annual growth between 2009-2012. Mondelez expects the economy and the biscuit business to recover and believes its gum business can grow at a decent rate. 

My Foolish bottom line
All three global food companies will focus on markets abroad, especially the emerging markets, to drive overall business growth. While Mondelez and Danone offer investors 1.70% and 2.60% dividend yields, respectively, the dividend yield of General Mills is the highest at 3%. Thus, income investors might also consider these three companies good investment opportunities because of their decent dividend yields. 

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