Customer satisfaction with grocery food is up 1.2% to a score of 82 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) scale of 0 to 100. Contributing factors included a slower-than-expected rise in food prices and quality improvement. Companies have been paying attention to the fact that consumers are showing more interest in fresh, natural, and organic foods.
Fueling the growth is the growing demand for healthier food. Sales of plant-based foods grew 20% as of Oct. 2018, one in 10 consumers has tried a gluten-free diet, and sales of bottled water are now outpacing soft drinks.
Continuing to lead the industry is Hershey with a steady ACSI score of 86, ahead of rival confectioners Mars and Nestle (Ferrero) at 84 and 82. Hershey has made its nutritional information more accessible and removed artificial ingredients from many of its core products.
DOLE saw the biggest jump, up 4% with a score of 85. By introducing healthy snacks-to-go and redesigned salad packaging, it was able to regain its strength after losing ground a year ago. General Mills, which made heavy investments in organic products, is up 2% to 84. It now ranks equal to PepsiCo’s Quaker (unchanged) and Mars (up 2%).
Other smaller food manufactures climbed 2% to a combined score of 83, while the rest of the larger companies came in at or below the industry average.
Unchanged from a year ago, Kraft Heinz scored 82. Once the highest-scoring company in the ACSI as Heinz, it has struggled to attract and keep customers as consumer preferences shift toward healthier foods. A sore spot is processed cheese as industry-wide sales of the product have declined for a fourth straight year and are projected to drop another 1.6% this year.
Nestle (Ferrero) trails Hershey and Mars at 82. The Swiss food group sold its U.S. confectionary to Italy’s Ferrero to concentrate more on health foods after years of failing chocolate sales. Ferrero intends to reformulate key brands with ingredients and packaging to ensure a better and fresher product by spring 2019.
At the bottom of the category, all with scores of 81, are Conagra, Kellogg, Campbell Soup and Tyson. Conagra is the only decliner (-1%), with neither value nor quality up to par, according to customers. Kellogg remains unchanged and Campbell Soup and Tyson are each up 1%. Soda consumption waned and the group of all other beverage producers – including La Croix, bottled water brands, and kombucha – improved in customer satisfaction, rising 1% to a combined score of 83.
For the full story, go to this week’s Food Institute Report.
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