Heinz (NYSE:HNZ) has some good news for its shareholders. CEO William R. Johnson issued some forward-looking comments at the company's recent annual meeting that rosily predict stability and growth for the next few years.

The CEO peered into his crystal ball and predicted that sales should grow in the range of 3-4% on an annual basis, with earnings per share increasing by 6-8%, excluding special items that might occur, such as divestitures. He's also looking to leverage certain international markets as growth regions -- China, India, Indonesia, and Russia are all expected to be big demand centers for the company's product portfolio. Johnson stated that 40-50% sales growth is possible in these markets in fiscal 2006.

So what's the takeaway here? Well, first, let me go back to Stephen Simpson's commentary on the company's earnings this week. He got it right when he said that although Heinz is not your classic Google growth story, it nevertheless offers good long-term value. It has a solid free cash flow yield, which is the perfect ingredient for a certain something: dividends.

If you've read my articles in the past, you know I enjoy looking at dividend histories. Here is Heinz's history, right from the corporate website. You'll see that Heinz has an acceptable record of upping the dividend -- except for that part of the table where the dividend dove from $0.405 to $0.27.

However, don't fret just yet. I myself was baffled by that, but since I knew Heinz was a recommendation of Motley Fool Income Investor, I checked with the service to see what was up. It looks like the Del Monte Foods (NYSE:DLM) spinoff was the reason for the reduction. As Mathew Emmert stated, Heinz was just adjusting the dividend to reflect the effect of losing that part of the company (plus shareholders received some Del Monte equity).

Stephen Simpson also mentioned in his Take that Heinz isn't necessarily his top stock idea at the moment (although he blessed it for income-investor types). He's probably right on this, but let me add one more thing about Heinz: It could be a great stock for those looking to bolster their portfolios. It might also be one of those stocks that could grow handsomely for a young person who is wisely saving for retirement. Granted, Heinz is working in a commodity business that will always see pressure from forces such as private brands, but it is nevertheless a company that should always be relevant in the future.

I mean, come on, can you imagine a world where people don't use Heinz 57 on their rib eyes or squirt Heinz ketchup all over their fries? OK, so maybe you can, but still.

Right now, the stock is yielding over 3%. Assuming further dividend increases in the future, sensible and efficient marketing plans for the core brands, and disciplined reinvestment of dividends on the part of holders, Heinz might be an attractive stock idea for all long-term buy-and-hold types.

Pour on some more saucy Foolishness:

The only thing Mathew Emmert likes better than french fries with ketchup on top is dividends. Why not try a free trial to Motley Fool Income Investor to see his most recent selections?

Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns none of the companies mentioned (he does, however, use ketchup liberally). The Fool has a disclosure policy.