General Mills sales drop for sixth straight quarter

General Mills cereal products in Miami, Florida.
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General Mills cereal products in Miami, Florida.

General Mills reported lower sales for the sixth straight quarter, hurt by a stronger dollar, but earnings topped expectations.

Sales in the United States grew 1 percent in the third quarter, helped by higher sales of yogurt and snacks, the company said on Wednesday.

General Mills shares rose about 1 percent to $52.40 in premarket trading.

The company, which makes Yoplait yoghurts, has seen sluggish U.S. sales of products such as cereals and frozen foods in the past few years as consumers shift to foods perceived as healthier.

General Mills, along with ConAgra Foods and Campbell Soup, is expanding into faster-growing segments such as natural and organic foods.

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General Mills said in September that it would acquire organic food maker Annie's Inc for about $820 million.

The company also said on Wednesday that it expected to complete the elimination of about 800 jobs, mainly in the United States, by the end of fiscal 2015 under its "Catalyst" cost-cutting plan.

General Mills expects to take a net charge of about $146 million related to these job cuts, it said.

The company will also shut plants in Methuen in Massachusetts and Lodi in California under another restructuring plan, called "Project Century," cutting about 680 jobs by the end of fiscal year 2016.

General Mills said in January that it would close plants in Midland, Ontario, Canada and New Albany, Indiana, cutting about 500 jobs under Project Century.

The food manufacturing giant posted fiscal third-quarter earnings excluding items of 70 cents per share, up from 62 cents per share share in the year-earlier period.

Revenue fell to $4.35 billion from $4.38 billion a year ago.

Wall Street expected the company to deliver quarterly earnings per share of 67 cents on $4.35 billion in revenue, according to a consensus estimate from Thompson Reuters.

The company's shares rose in premarket trading following the announcement. (Click here to track its share price)

General Mills recently announced it is raising its quarterly dividend by 7 percent to 44 cents per share.

Reuters contributed to this report.