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Customer satisfaction with a variety of grocery brands is enjoying the highest spike in years, largely as a result of deflationary prices which have dropped for the ninth straight month, according to new data from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).
Produced by the epononymous Ann Arbor, Mich.-based firm, consumer satisfaction levels for what it refers to as "nondurable" household products that consumers typically use every day – such as food, personal care and cleaning products, soft drinks, breweries, apparel, and athletic shoes – has surged 9.2 percent for an ACSI score of 83, its highest level since 2012. While the longest streak of food deflation has plagued the food industry in the past year, Americans' cost of eating at home has decreased as much as eating out has increased, which has in turn burnished the halos of many popular grocery brands. “Higher customer satisfaction for packaged food reflects the decreasing cost consumers see in eating at home,” said Claes Fornell, ACSI founder and chairman.
Most food manufacturers posted customer satisfaction gains as grocery prices fell: Dole maintained its lead at 86, while General Mills moved up to second place, at 84, alongside Mars, Hershey and Nestlé. Smaller companies, however, saw the strongest gains, hitting a combined score of 83 and tying with PepsiCo’s Quaker Oats division and Kraft Heinz. Tyson, at 82, and Kellogg, at 81, are below industry average.
As for beverages, carbonated soft drinks saw consumer satisfaction rise to 84, returning to a level typical for this area as offerings expand to include better-for-you drinks such as organic teas, cold-pressed juices, protein and performance drinks, and coconut water. Despite posting a slight gain, Coca-Cola dropped from first to last place as the rest of the industry improved. One year ago, Dr Pepper Snapple Group shared the lead with Coca-Cola, but this year it topped the category on its own, at 86. Smaller beverage manufacturers followed closely in second place, at 85. PepsiCo came in comes in at 84, the industry average, overtaking Coca-Cola, which was at 81.
On the beer side, Anheuser-Busch InBev took the top spot, at 84, beating out MillerCoors, which took the lead in customer satisfaction last year. Anheuser-Busch InBev recently completed a multibillion-dollar acquisition of SABMiller, crreating the world’s largest beer company. As part of the merger, SABMiller gave up ownership of the Miller brands by selling its 58 percent stake in MillerCoors, which scored an 81. Meanwhile, the combined score for all other brewers, including craft brewers, took second place, at 82.
Personal care and cleaning products edge up to an ACSI score of 83. Dial took first place at 85, followed by Clorox and Unilever at 84. Colgate-Palmolive, Procter & Gamble, and the combined score of all other smaller manufacturers tie at 83, with Johnson & Johnson just below at 82.
The ACSI report, which is based on 5,607 customer surveys collected in the third quarter of 2016, is available for free download here.