(2010 Consumer Staples story updated with an analysis of Church & Dwight)
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- A handful of consumer stocks poised to benefit from exciting opportunities in 2011 also showed respectable to strong performance in 2010.

Read on for an overview of the major drivers and quarterly performances of six consumer stocks in 2010....

>>Consumer Staples Overbought, Says Manager

Corn Products International

(CPO)

Corn Products International

(CPO)

is up about 61.3% year to date. Perhaps its biggest news in 2010 was its acquisition of specialty starch supplier National Starch, which Wall Street analysts were enthusiastic about as it would help the company diversify.

For the most part, Corn Products International, a major corn refiner and supplier of corn-based food ingredients, has been associated with high-fructose corn syrup products. But by combining itself with National Starch, the company would become, in the words of Corn Products International CEO Ilene Gordon, in a prepared statement, "an ingredient solutions leader with nearly $5 billion in revenues." National Starch had 2009 revenues of $1.2 billion from sales of specialty starches to local and multinational customers in the food, papermaking, consumer and industrial segments.

The offer was announced on Jun. 21 and closed on Oct. 1. National Starch was bought for $1.3 billion in cash. The transaction was expected to generate cost synergies of at least $50 million and to be accretive by the end of 2011.

Consumer Staples Overbought, Says Manager

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Following the acquisition, S&P raised its opinion on shares of Corn Products to strong buy from hold and Rafferty Capital Markets raised its rating to buy from hold. Deutsche Bank kept its hold rating, believing that the Corn Products valuation already reflected the National Starch acquisition, but raised the price target to $44.

>>Consumer Staples Overbought, Says Manager

>>6 Top Consumer Goods Stocks: 2011 Preview

For the third-quarter, Corn Products International posted net income of $37 million, or 48 cents a share vs. $52.8 million, or 70 cents a share, a year earlier. Adjusted earnings were 81 cents for the quarter vs. the consensus estimate of 80 cents a share. Revenue increased 5% to $1.02 billion vs. the consensus target of $1.03 billion.

Deutsche Bank analyst Christina McGlone summed up the earnings results as follows: "Corn Products reported strong Q3 results, driven by broad-based volume growth across all geographies and helped by two points of favorable currency," she said in an equity research report. Meanwhile, Rafferty analyst Ian Horowitz noted that National Starch "improved markedly" during the third quarter.

This calendar year looked to be tracking slightly better than 2008 for National Starch, Horowitz noted to investors.

Coca-Cola Company

(KO) - Get Report

Coca-Cola Company

(KO) - Get Report

is up about 13.8% year to date. In February, of this year, the Coca-Cola Company agreed to acquire the assets and liabilities of bottle

Coca-Cola Enterprises'

(CCE)

entire North American business for about $12.3 billion on the heels of rival

PepsiCo's

(PEP) - Get Report

announcement of bottling acquisitions.

In an equity research report, Morningstar analyst Philip Gorham said the pressure on bottlers' margins combined with the demands for distribution and production flexibility by the syrup makers such as PepsiCo and Coca-Cola had been a source of tension between the bottlers and their parent companies for many years. Gorham says the bottling acquisitions were meant to eliminate these conflicts and make help the companies be more responsive to evolving consumer tastes.

"There is little that one of these beverage behemoths can do that cannot be replicated by the other," Gorham noted. "We think Coke's strategy will nullify the competitive advantage that Pepsi had hoped to achieve in its route to market." Likewise, Wall Street Strategies analyst David Silver indicated that Coca-Cola's move was prudent, in that it would bring in additional, steady cash flow and a new revenue stream for the company.

>>Consumer Staples Overbought, Says Manager

>>6 Top Consumer Goods Stocks: 2011 Preview

Coca-Cola's acquisition of CCE's North American business included consideration of Coca-Cola's 34% equity ownership in Coca-Cola Enterprises, valued at $3.4 billion at the date of the announcement and the assumption of $8.88 billion in debt. At the same time, CCE acquired the company's bottling operations in Norway and Sweden for $822 million. In Oct., the companies announced that their deal was complete.

Coca-Cola recently reported a third-quarter earnings increase amid solid volume growth and concentrate increase. The company said net income attributable to shareowners of the Coca-Cola increased by about 8% to $2.06 billion, or 88 cents a share, from $1.89 billion, or 81 cents, a year earlier. Net operating revenue rose about 5% to $8.43 billion from $8.044 billion as volume increased 5% in the quarter, and was especially pronounced in the international markets.

On average, analysts were expecting earnings of 89 cents on revenue of $8.3 billion. Silver kept his buy rating for the company after the announcement, as did Stifel Nicolaus' Mark Swartzberg. Credit Suisse's Carlos Laboy maintained his outperform rating for stock.

>>Consumer Staples Overbought, Says Manager

Altria

(MO) - Get Report

Altria

(MO) - Get Report

is up about 26% year to date even as it faced continued regulatory headwinds in 2010 after divesting most of its international and nontobacco assets over the last three years and becoming completely exposed to the declining U.S. tobacco market.

The secret of its continued to success, said Morningstar's Gorham, is that tobacco manufacturing remains a lucrative business; the addictiveness of tobacco remains a proven fact. Furthermore, as a market leader in both smokeless tobacco and machine-made cigars, both growing areas, Altria approaches the tobacco market in a balanced way, says Gorham. "Both categories are growing due to the migration of smokers to other tobacco products. And through its popular brands, Altria is likely to maximize its share of this migration in order to secure further long-term growth."

The addictive power of tobacco and Altria's dominance in the U.S. tobacco market gives the company a "wide economic moat," according to Gorham.

>>Consumer Staples Overbought, Says Manager

>>6 Top Consumer Goods Stocks: 2011 Preview

Altria said third-quarter net earnings increased 28.2% to $1.13 billion, or 54 cents a share, from $882 million, or 48 cents, in the year-ago period. Net revenue rose 1.6% to $6.4 billion from $6.3 billion the previous year. The Wall Street consensus projection for the quarter was 52 cents a share on revenue of $4.42 billion. Standard & Poor's Kwon noted risks to her strong buy, five-star rating of Altria stock include investor caution about court trials, potential increases in excise taxes and smoking bans at the state and local level.

General Mills

(GIS) - Get Report

Food leader

General Mills

(GIS) - Get Report

is up 1.6% year to date.

For the first quarter, the company reported that net income rose 12% to $472.1 million, or 70 cents a share, from $420.6 million, or 62 cents a share the same time last year, driven by stronger sales for brands such as Cheerios and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Excluding items, earnings per share was 64 cents, beating the Wall Street consensus estimate by a penny. Revenue grew by 1% to $3.53 billion, vs. the consensus expectation of $3.57 billion. Stifel Nicolaus analyst Christopher Growe noted positive pricing in the company's U.S. retail division despite heightened competition.

In a note, Morningstar analyst Erin Swanson said at the end of fiscal 2010 the company's total debt amounted to around 0.54 of capital, which is average for a packaged food firm, and that earnings before interest and taxes covered interest expense seven times. "We aren't concerned about the amount of leverage on General Mills' balance sheet," she said.

>>Consumer Staples Overbought, Says Manager

>>6 Top Consumer Goods Stocks: 2011 Preview

General Mills announced in May a two-for-one stock split whereby shareholders of record at the close of business on May 28 would receive one additional share of General Mills stock for each share already owned. The distributed would begin on June 8.

The move "reflects our commitment to maintaining a market price range for our shares that is attractive to individual investors," General Mills CEO Ken Powell said.

Tyson Foods

(TSN) - Get Report

Even as a leader in the meatpacking industry,

Tyson Foods

(TSN) - Get Report

has not been immune to the challenges of the business. "Tyson has struggled mightily with skyrocketing grain prices and an oversupply in chicken," Morningstar's Swanson said.

Swanson says that the meatpacking business is one where profitability is difficult to manage. The unpredictability of commodity costs, for example, make input costs such as animal feed challenging to manage. Swanson says scale of operations does little to offset the unpredictability of commodity costs. Even the price for the end-products can be difficult to control given the unpredictability of supply and demand, which can easily change with import bans and disease outbreaks, the analyst notes.

>>Consumer Staples Overbought, Says Manager

>>6 Top Consumer Goods Stocks: 2011 Preview

Such challenges lead to a descent in Tyson's operating profit to $345 million in 2009 from $613 million in 2007.

Despite all these challenges, Tyson Foods is up about 39.5% year to date.

Swanson credits new management for the substantial improvements in the company's financial health. Now, Tyson Foods has on its balance sheet $1 billion in cash vs. $2.5 billion of debt previously. It's also slashed chicken production to prevent overcapacity and reaped the benefits of lower beef and pork supply industry-wide.

For the fourth-quarter, Tyson posted profit of $213 million, or 57 cents a share vs. loss of $457 million, or $1.23 a share the year before. Adjusted earnings were 64 cents a share, easily beating the average analyst estimate of 56 cents. Revenue increased 3.2% to $7.44 billion, compared with the consensus estimate of $7.75 billion. BB&T analyst Heather Jones says though revenue disappointed; its margins were "very good."

"Company-specific focus, better than expected results and consistent achievement of normalized to above-normalized margins has given Tyson management tremendous credibility," Deutsche Bank analyst Christina McGlonesaid in an investor note.

Church & Dwight

(CHD) - Get Report

Church & Dwight

(CHD) - Get Report

is up 10.8% year to date. Even as the company faced a challenging promotional environment in 2010, the company's leadership in value products and improved manufacturing operations kept investors interested.

Earlier in the year, Morningstar's Swanson noted that Church & Dwight's efforts to drive down costs and invest in marketing support and product innovation was helping to keep the company competitive, but later wondered whether investors were somewhat overly optimistic about the firm's prospects amid a tough competitive environment.

Meanwhile, S&P's Kwon believed that the company would be getting a full year's benefit in 2010 from its new liquid laundry detergent manufacturing plant and the closing of an old plant, along with strong sales and cost control. Kwon also mentioned an expected small positive foreign currency impact for the company in 2010.

For the third quarter, the company said net income fell about 0.7% to $69.5 million or 96 cents a share, from $70 million or 98 cents a share the year before. Earnings per share would have risen 12% if a favorable legal settlement of 17 cents a share and a plant restructuring charge of 5 cents a share in 2009 were excluded.

Church & Dwight's net sales for the quarter grew by about 1.7% to $656.9 million from $646.2 million the year before as consumer domestic net sales fell 0.1%, consumer international net sales rose 4.9% and specialty products net sales increased 10.1%.

Analysts, on average, were expecting earnings of 94 cents a share on net sales of $659.59 million.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

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>>Consumer Staples Overbought, Says Manager

>>6 Top Consumer Goods Stocks: 2011 Preview

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