A select group of stocks that has proven to be a consistent winner for investors is growing by three next week. Nordson Corp ., C.H. Robinson and J.M. Smucker have made the cut for the S & P 500 Dividend Aristocrats and will be added to index as of Feb. 1, S & P Dow Jones Indices announced on Tuesday. The S & P 500 Dividend Aristocrats Index is made up of stocks in the broader index that have increased their dividends in each of the past 25 years at least. Nordson, which joined the S & P 500 last year, has actually had 42 straight years of dividend increases, according to S & P Dow Jones Indices data. The company said in a press release last year that the streak was even longer, at 59 years. The index is not just a club for the most reliable dividend payers, but also a useful tool for investors. Investing in theses stocks has been shown to offer defensive qualities while still delivering long-term growth. For example, the ProShares S & P 500 Dividend Aristocrats ETF (NOBL) fund had a total return of -6.5% last year, according to FactSet, easily outperforming broad market averages. Over the past five years, the fund has an annualized return of just over 9%, roughly equal with the SPDR S & P 500 Trust (SPY) despite having a higher expense ratio. NOBL 5Y mountain The NOBL fund has a solid long-term track record and outperformed during 2022’s bear market. “Timing is tough. … Having a resilient strategy that can give you some meaningful downside protection but not leave you behind when markets rebound is a particularly robust solution,” said Simeon Hyman, global investment strategist at ProShares. He added that equities with growing dividends were also an effective way to combat inflation. And the performance of the group would look even better if the newest names were included. All three have outperformed the S & P 500 over the past 12 months. The NOBL ETF, which is equal weighted, will rebalance at the same time as the index, Hyman said. The aristocrats fund is underweight technology relative to the broader market. ProShares also offers an S & P Technology Dividend Aristocrats ETF (TDV) , which lowers the bar to seven straight years of dividend hikes. The tech fund has a slightly positive total return over the past 12 months.