Income investors prefer sustainable dividend-paying defensive companies that provide products and services that consumers buy regardless of the state of the economy. Those companies should have global leading positions in the industry, a decent dividend yield, and a reasonable payout ratio. Here are the three world-class consumer goods companies that fit all those criteria above: Unilever (NYSE:UL), Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), and Kimberly-Clark (NYSE:KMB).

Unilever sees huge potential in emerging markets
Unilever has delivered a lot of value to shareholders by its increasing exposure to emerging markets and undergoing business restructuring. Under the leadership of CEO Paul Polman, Unilever has divested several slower-growth, non-core food businesses, including Skippy peanut butter and North American Frozen Foods. It also eliminated several of its lowest-profit SKUs (stock-keeping units) and avoided businesses that only generated volumes but not returns.

Moreover, Unilever has continued expanding its business in emerging markets. This year, the company raised its stake in Hindustan Unilever in India to 67% to capture the fast-growing economic potential. Although the emerging markets were slowing down in India, Brazil, China, Indonesia, and other countries, CEO Paul Polman said it was normal as any road to development had some bumps. He believed that Hindustan Unilever could manage to grow its volume by 6 times if it could successfully tap into the Indian rural market. In the long run, emerging markets are key growth drivers for Unilever. 

Unilever is trading at $40.40 per share with a total market capitalization of nearly $114.80 billion. At the current trading price, Unilever offers investors a sweet dividend yield at 3.70%, with a good payout ratio of 60%.

Procter & Gamble will generate higher profits with its cost savings program
Procter & Gamble is another global consumer goods giant that investors should keep for their long-term income portfolios. Under the leadership of returning CEO A.G. Lafley, Procter & Gamble expected to improve its profitability through its ongoing $10 billion cost savings program. The program comprises $2 billion in operating leverage, $6 billion in COGS, and another $2 billion in overhead savings. The company has consolidated several factories in developed markets such as Western Europe and the U.S., while also reducing 7,000 office jobs around the world. 

Procter & Gamble is trading at $85.40 per share with a total market capitalization of $232.20 billion. With a similar payout ratio to Unilever, Procter & Gamble also offers investors sustainable dividends but with a lower yield at 2.80%. More cash will be returned to Procter & Gamble's shareholders with its ongoing share repurchase. The company plans to buy back around $5-$7 billion in fiscal 2014. 

Kimberly-Clark shifts its focus to emerging markets
Kimberly-Clark is also one of the global leaders in personal care and the consumer tissue industry. In order to generate more sustainable returns, the company has decided to exit the diaper category in Western and Central Europe (except for its Italian business) and divest some lower-margin businesses in the consumer tissue segment. Moreover, it will keep reducing its cost structure by streamlining its European manufacturing operations. It also shifted its focus to higher-growth markets including Brazil, Russia, and China. In the past 18 months, its diaper sales have grown extremely fast at the rate of 40% in China and 20% in Brazil. 

Kimberly-Clark is the smallest company among the three mentioned here with around $41.35 billion in total market capitalization. At $108.40 per share, the company offers investors a 3% dividend yield with a reasonable payout ratio of 63%. In addition, it also returns cash to shareholders via share repurchases. Kimberly-Clark estimated that its full-year share buyback amount would reach $1.2 billion.

My Foolish take
These global consumer goods businesses could fit well into the income portfolios of long-term investors. With a decent dividend yield, a reasonable payout ratio, and ongoing share buybacks, investors can sleep well when investing in these three companies. Moreover, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, and Kimberly-Clark could drive their profitability higher in the long run with their ongoing business restructuring initiatives and expansions.

Anh HOANG has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Kimberly-Clark, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.