NEW YORK, NEW YORK, U.S. — Noting it’s a “dynamic time to be in the food business,” Ian Friendly, executive vice-president, chief operating officer of the U.S. Retail business at General Mills, Inc., told analysts at the Morgan Stanley Consumer & Retail Conference in New York on Nov. 17 that the Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.-based company likes its growth prospects for 2011 and beyond.

The optimistic outlook comes about a month before General Mills will release its second-quarter financial results, which Friendly indicated will be “generally in line with and not ahead of year-ago levels” when they are released on Dec. 16.

Among the reasons for Friendly’s optimism is consumer trends point to continued growth in meals eaten at home.

“The consumer trends toward eating more meals at home actually began back in 2003, well before the recession, and the trend is expected to continue for at least the next several years, driven by economic factors and the presence of both older consumers and new millennial families,” Friendly said. “Total U.S. food expenditures top $1 trillion annually, so this shift to meals at home is a significant opportunity for our U.S. retail business.”

Innovation, too, is expected to be a driving force, he said.

Friendly said General Mills has received a boost from the recent launches of Chocolate Cheerios and Wheaties FUEL, and in January 2011 the company will debut a new national television and digital campaign behind the company’s whole grain cereal lineup. A new cereal — Cinnamon Burst Cheerios — also is set to hit the market in January, providing 20% of the daily recommended value of fiber.