Harris: Supermarkets still tops, but less fervor

October 24, 2011

While 90% of consumers still think food stores do a good job, this rating is down from 2009.

For all the turmoil in people’s lives since the past few years, supermarkets are one constant they feel they can rely on. So many industries have failed the public, in their view – banks, airlines and oil companies, to name a few. Yet supermarkets stand in stark contrast as being held in consistently high esteem.

The Harris Poll has taken the consumer measure of 22 major industries practically every year since 1997, and it did so again this summer, polling nearly 2,000 U.S. adults. The figures show volatility for many sectors, with sentiments driven by events. Supermarkets lead the pack once more, as in every year since 2003, the first year it was measured. 

The latest tally is good news/bad news: There’s an 80% differential between survey respondents who say the supermarket industry generally does a good job of serving consumers (90%) vs. those who say it does a bad job (10%). Yes, it is #1, topping online search engines (74% differential) and hospitals (66% differential), but it is also supermarkets’ smallest positive gap since 2004 (79%); and in 2009, the gap was six percentage points higher at 86%.

By comparison, packaged food companies came in eighth with a 47% good job/bad job differential, based on 71% who said ‘good’ and 24% who said ‘bad.’ This is CPG’s second-lowest differential ever, down 20 points from the 67% differential in 2005, yet just one percentage point below the 48% mark in 2009.