MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA, U.S. — Net income at General Mills, Inc. rose 18% in fiscal 2011, lifted by an increase in mark-to-market valuation of certain commodity positions along with a net benefit from certain tax items. Full-year results also benefitted from a strong fourth quarter, in which higher sales helped to drive a 51% gain in earnings.

Net income in the year ended May 29 totaled $1.798 billion, equal to $2.80 per share on the common stock, up from $1.530 billion, or $2.32 per share, in the same period a year ago. Net sales in the year rose 2% to $14.880 billion from $14.635 billion. General Mills attributed 1 percentage point of net sales growth to increased pound volume and 1 point to price and mix.

For the fourth quarter ended May 29, net income was $320.2 million, or 50 cents per share, up from $211.9 million, or 32 cents per share, in the same period a year ago. Net sales were $3.634 billion, up 3% from $3.529 billion.

“This past year represented a challenging operating environment for food manufacturers, as we experienced the return and rapid acceleration of cost inflation for various food ingredients and energy,” said Ken Powell, chairman and chief executive officer. “We’re generally pleased with our 2011 sales and profit results, which met the key targets we set for the year and represent performance consistent with our long-term growth model.”

Despite a gain of 4% in the fourth quarter, operating profit within the company’s U.S. Retail segment fell 2% during fiscal 2011 to $2.347 billion, bogged down by higher input costs. Net sales for the full year were down 0.4%, to $10.163 billion.

Operating profit in the Bakeries and Foodservice segment rose 51% in the fourth quarter and 16% in the full year, while sales increased 11% and 6% in the fourth quarter and full year, respectively. At $306.3 million, fiscal 2011 operating profit within the segment was driven by net price realization, effective customer channel and product strategies, and increased grain merchandising earnings, the company said.

Full-year net sales in the Bakeries and Foodservice segment, at $1.84 billion, benefitted from 6 percentage points of growth related to pricing and mix, while pound volume essentially matched prior-year levels.

“Net sales to food service distributors and operators grew 3%, net sales to convenience store and vending customers grew 11%, and net sales to bakery and national restaurant accounts increased 6%,” General Mills said.

Operating profit in the International segment totaled $291.4 million in fiscal 2011, up 52% from fiscal 2010, driven in large part by a gain of 81% in the fourth quarter. Net sales rose 7% for the year to $2.875 billion, and 17% for the fourth quarter, to $778.5 million.

General Mills said pound volume contributed 6 percentage points to the sales growth in the International segment, while price and mix added 1 point.

Capital expenditures totaled $649 million in 2011, reflecting new manufacturing capacity to support fast-growing product lines such as grain snack bars and multi-pack yogurt, as well as investments in cost-savings related projects.