Customer satisfaction with food manufacturers slips for the first time in three years, according to a report released today by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). For most other household nondurables – including soft drinks, beer, cleaning products, athletic shoes and apparel – customer satisfaction remains high and stable.

Rising prices are partly to blame as customer satisfaction with food manufacturers falls 2.4 percent to an ACSI score of 81 on a 0-100 scale. Smaller manufacturers and store brands are down 2 percent to 80, shouldering most of the loss.

Perennial leader Heinz remains on top despite slipping 2 percent to 87 – but for first time in more than a decade, Heinz shares the lead with General Mills (+5 percent) and Quaker (+1 percent). Kraft shows the most improvement, advancing 6 percent to 86 and surpassing Campbell Soup (84) and ConAgra (83), while Hershey (+1 percent to 86) inches ahead of both Mars (84) and Nestle (83).

Customer satisfaction with soft drinks is unchanged at 84, despite weakened demand for carbonated beverages. Soda consumption continues to decline as consumers increasingly turn to energy drinks, tea, and bottled water, forcing beverage makers to focus on new and different products.

Despite a 1 percent dip, Dr Pepper Snapple still beats both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo in customer satisfaction with an ACSI score of 86. However, PepsiCo is the only major soft drink producer to improve customer satisfaction this year, breaking its three-year tie with Coca-Cola by edging up 1 percent to 85. Coca-Cola is stable at 84. The cola rivals have remained within two ACSI points of each other for nearly twenty years.

“While soda consumption isn’t likely to evaporate, soft drink manufacturers are certainly on the right track adding ‘healthier’ beverages like sport drinks and bottled water to their brands,” says ACSI Director, David VanAmburg. “If soft drink makers are going to continue to enjoy high levels of customer satisfaction, it will be critical that they adapt to changing consumer preferences. In the bottled water segment, Coca-Cola’s Dasani and PepsiCo’s Aquafina brands already dominate the US market.”

VanAmburg also acknowledges the trend toward craft sodas could be helping this new segment, but the data isn’t deep enough to measure specific drinks.

Customer satisfaction with beer breweries is flat at an ACSI score of 81, with very little differentiation between the largest brands. MillerCoors improves slightly (+1 percent to 82), taking the lead over Anheuser-Busch InBev (81).

Athletic shoes are the only nondurables category to improve customer satisfaction this year, gaining 1.3 percent to 81. Smaller brands, including Sketchers and New Balance, lead the industry, climbing 4 percent to an aggregate score of 83.

This survey ran July through August and surveyed 6,000 customers. 

Beverage, Industry News