Customer satisfaction with food manufacturers has slipped for the first time in three years, according to a report released 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% to an ACSI score of 81 on a 0-100 scale. Smaller manufacturers and store brands are down 2% to 80, shouldering most of the loss.
Perennial leader Heinz remains on top despite slipping 2% to 87—but for the first time in more than a decade, Heinz shares the lead with General Mills (+5%) and Quaker (+1%). Kraft shows the most improvement, advancing 6% to 86 and surpassing Campbell Soup (84) and ConAgra (83), while Hershey (+1% 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% 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% to 85. Coca-Cola is stable at 84. The cola rivals have remained within two ACSI points of each other for nearly 20 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,” said 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 U.S. market.”