(Updated for comment on consumer sentiment.)NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- This has been a profitable year to invest in consumer-goods stocks and 2012 may be too, at least for those that have been beaten down. Consumer-goods shares have generated the second-best returns in the S&P 500 Index this year, rising 11%. Apparel company VF Corp. ( VFC), which owns the North Face and Lee brands, is the top gainer at 65%. Tobacco companies and food producers also led the benchmark index. Household-goods and home-construction companies were the poorest performers, increasing only 3%, in line with the broader S&P 500. That's because of the slump in the real estate market. In fact, the biggest laggard in the index was Whirlpool ( WHR), the maker of refrigerators, and washer and dryers.