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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- U.S. consumer product sales may be down, but that doesn't mean Americans don't love their soft drinks, beer and cigarettes. A new report released yesterday by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) revealed all three categories continue to satisfy U.S. consumers.
Posting the best increase from 2010 to 2011 were cigarette brands, which registered a 2.6-percent increase to a reach an ACSI score of 78 (on a zero to 100 scale). The soft drink industry also improved, as its ACSI score rose to 85, up 1.2 percent. The beer industry's ACSI score remained the same as last year, at 82.
According to ACSI, the cigarette gain proves the industry has completed its recovery from a sharp customer satisfaction downturn the organization reported following new tobacco prices that drove up retail prices.
"The quality of tobacco products has never been an issue for smokers," Claes Fornell, founder of the ACSI, said in a statement issued by the group. "Their satisfaction, instead, is highly tuned to changes in price." The ACSI survey also calculates consumer satisfaction among brands. In the cigarette industry, Phillip Morris reported its best ACSI in 16 years, with a 2011 score of 80, a 4-percent increase compared to 2010. Reynolds American's score rose 3 percent to an ACSI of 77.
The soft drink segment tied electronics as the highest-rated category among the 47 ACSI surveys. "A wide variety of product offerings, product reliability, low unit price and minimal buyer switching costs keeps customers highly satisfied with their soft drinks," Fornell said. "Add to this the fact that purchasing and consuming these products hardly requires any customer service assistance, and soft drinks come out on top."
Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. shared the top score, both with an ACSI of 85. Smaller brands including several private label store brands, as well as Faygo and Shasta, also fared well. However, Dr Pepper Snapple Group suffered the worst decline among soft drink manufacturers. The company’s score slipped to 82, down 4 percent from 2010. According to ACSI, the satisfaction score decline was due to customer dissatisfaction with its price increases.
The beer category remains strong. However, the category has dipped from a score of 84 in 2009 to its current score of 82. A decline in Anheuser-Busch InBev's score during the past two years is the reason, said ACSI. Miller took the lead this year with an ACSI score of 84. An aggregate of brands including Corona, Heineken and Samuel Adams finished a close second with a score of 83. A-B was unchanged from 2010 and came in with a score of 81.
"Beer customers tend to be more sensitive to price than those buying soft drinks," said Fornell. "Consumption of beer is also less than half of the consumption of soft drinks, which makes customer satisfaction more important for this industry."