ACSI: First dip in three years for food makers

October 16, 2013

In the supermarket, consumers are most pleased by soft drinks, personal care and cleaning products manufacturers.

The nation’s food retailers and food manufacturers share a consumer audience that’s feeling the economic shakes.  Today’s tight spending has supermarkets scraping for every trip and dollar in sales growth; in this environment, grocery shopping is more mission-driven than satisfying.

Research released yesterday, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Nondurable Products Report 2013, shows an apparent new negative effect on food makers as well: Consumers are less satisfied by the products from smaller manufacturers and store brands, and scored them 2% lower at 80 (on a scale of 100) than a year ago.  This drove most of the score decline among food manufacturers overall, which slid by 2.4% to 81.  This was the segment’s first decline in three years, noted ACSI.

The Lempert Report believes part of the lower score for smaller manufacturers and store brands may be rooted in shopper resentment that they’re even trying alternate products at lower prices.  Others may perceive a quality difference.

Although food manufacturers tie for 10th place out of 43 nondurable industries measured by ACSI, their measure trails that of soft drinks (84, the same as in 2012) and personal care and cleaning products (83, also the same as last year).  They tie breweries at 81.  All three are sizeable sectors of the supermarket, which itself ranks #23 on the list at a customer satisfaction measure of 77.  

Soft drinks rank #2, despite consumer migration to alternate beverages such as energy drinks, teas and bottled waters.  “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,” says ACSI director David VanAmburg.

Personal care and cleaning products rank #5, typical of the segment’s high standing in this annual study, which began in 1995.  Its largest manufacturers typically score 84-85, and outpace the aggregate of smaller manufacturers and store brands, which come in at 82.

ACSI interviews about 70,000 customers annually, using an index founded at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.