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NEW YORK -- In these tough economic times, consumers are pleased with their comfort foods, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) released this week. The quarterly report, which measures customer satisfaction across 10 economic sectors, found satisfaction was particularly high among beer and candy companies.
"The same thing happened in 2001 in the midst of the previous recession and also in 2004 when concern over the Iraq war and rising fuel prices appeared to be reflected in higher satisfaction with comfort foods," Professor Claes Fornell, founder of the ACSI and author of "The Satisfied Customer," said in a statement.
Beer manufacturers reached their highest level to date with a score of 84 (out of a 100-point scale), marking a 1.2-percent change from 2008 rankings. Top companies included Anheuser-Busch InBev (85) and SABMiller (83), which grew 3.7 percent and 1.2 percent respectively from last year. Molson Coors Brewing (81) dipped by 2.4 percent, while "all others" maintained their rank at a score of 83.
Candy/chocolate companies were also popular among consumers. Overall satisfaction with these companies remained steady at a rank of 83, with Mars (87), Hershey (87) and Nestle (85) in the top 10. Both Hershey and Nestle increased 2.7 percent from last year's totals, and Mars gained 1.2 percent.
Other top food brands included Heinz (89), Quaker (87), Kellogg's (85) and Sara Lee (85).
There was a strong showing among soft drink companies as well, which saw their satisfaction levels grow 2.4 percent for an overall score of 85. PepsiCo (up 2.4 percent) and "all others" (up 6.3 percent) posted the greatest gains. However, Coca-Cola (down 1.2 percent) and Dr Pepper Snapple (down 1.1 percent) both dipped.
The index also showed cigarettes seem to be losing their appeal with customers, as the category dropped to a score of 72 -- a 7.7-percent decrease from its 2008 score. Manufacturers such as Philip Morris USA (down 8.9 percent) and Reynolds American (down 7.7 percent) saw significant declines, dropping from scores of 79 to 72, and 78 to 72 respectively.
According to Fornell, these cigarette declines are the result of new government-imposed product taxes. Similar taxes in the past caused a 10-percent price increase and subsequently a 4-percent decrease in consumption, he stated.
-- Nielsen Business Media
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