NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Shares of packaged foods company General Mills (GIS) - Get General Mills, Inc. (GIS) Report are scheduled to go ex-dividend Wednesday. To qualify for a dividend check, investors must own GIS stock prior to Friday (the date of record), which means if you want to play the strategy known as "dividend capture," the time to act is now.

Dividend capture consists of buying stocks for the sole purpose of collecting their quarterly dividends, and then selling them within days after the cash has been paid out by the company. In this case, General Mills is scheduled to pay its 44-cent quarterly dividend on Aug. 3, which is roughly three weeks from the date of record on July 10 --  the day the company will finalize its shareholder roster, locking down the list of people to whom it will send dividend checks.

Whether in bear or bull markets, dividend capture, also known as "buying dividend," can be a lucrative strategy -- one that mitigates the risk associated with holding stocks for the long term. For General Mills, however, investing for the long term can be rewarding too. Not only does its dividend yield 3.10% annually (above the 2.00% market average), the Minneapolis-based company has raised its dividend almost 60% in the past four years.

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Known for cereals like Cheerios and Lucky Charms, Häagen Dazs ice cream, Yoplait yogurt and a host of other ready-to-eat foods, General Mills is working to re-invent itself by launching dozens of new products that it hopes will spark higher sales in the quarters ahead. At the same time, General Mills, which last year picked off organic and natural food specialist Annie's, is ramping up its high-growth high margin organic foods category, which helps it to better compete with the likes of Kraft (KRFT) and Kellogg (K) - Get Kellogg Company (K) Report.

While General Mills has been around for almost 150 years, it's no longer your father's or your grandfather's breakfast food company, given the rate at which it's evolving. Combined with its new marketing initiatives, aimed at appealing to consumers' healthier eating habits, this makes GIS, which is up more 8% on the year and 10% in the past six months, a stock to own for the next 12 to 18 months. Its solid dividend is just icing on the cake.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no shares in any of the stocks mentioned.