When it comes to consumer products (categorized as nondurable goods), Americans vote generally vote with their wallets. If they like a product, they buy it over and over again. If they don’t, there are plenty of other products to choose from. Even so, it’s interesting to see how people rank nondurables’ based on product quality.
The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) on Tuesday released its 2019 report on six categories of nondurable goods. ACSI surveyed 5,245 customers chosen at random and contacted by email who were asked to evaluate their experiences with recently purchased products of the largest manufacturers in terms of market share, plus an aggregate category consisting of “all other” (and thus smaller) companies in these industries. Scores are reported on a scale of 1 to 100, with scores above 80 considered to be excellent.
In the food manufacturing industry, survey respondents gave the entire industry an index score of 82, unchanged from the 2018 survey. Chocolate maker Hershey and PepsiCo’s Quaker products earned the highest scores, 84, although the composite score for “all other” also hit that level. ACSI noted: “Quality perceptions have improved for the smaller brands and their value is deemed superior to all of the major manufacturers as they compete well when it comes to pricing.” These smaller brands include store brands such as Walmart’s Great Value and Kroger’s eponymous brand. Among the larger companies, Dole scored 83, while General Mills and Mars both scored 82, to round out the top five.
Like the food makers, soft drink makers as a group scored an 82. Pepsi was the only one of the three big brands to post a year-over-year gain, rising from a 2018 score of 80 to 82. Keurig Dr Pepper was down two points to 82 and Coca-Cola was unchanged at 81. There is not much movement in this category because consumers are generally satisfied with their choices.
The other group of beverage products surveyed was beer. Brewers posted an overall score of 84, the highest for any nondurable product and the highest among all 46 industries included in the ACSI universe. Smaller beer makers like Heineken, Sam Adams and many craft brewers posted a score of 85, while Anheuser-Busch InBev scored 84 and Molson Coors scored 81. Large brewers are doing well with light beers, according to ACSI, because those products fit better with consumer preferences for healthier choices.
The personal care and cleaning products category includes items as different as Clorox bleach and Johnson & Johnson Band-Aids. As a group, the category posts an ACSI score of 83, with smaller firms like Arm & Hammer, Biotene and store brands scoring 85, compared with a score of 84 for Procter & Gamble, the leading scorer among the big companies. Two big firms, Dial soap maker Henkel and Johnson & Johnson, dropped five points each to post index scores of 77. Both faced high-profile legal battles last year and, ACSI notes, “Henkel has by far the lowest expectations in the industry.” Johnson & Johnson does not fare much better, according to ACSI, due to the baby powder lawsuit and the company’s role in the opioid epidemic: “[V]alue perceptions of Johnson & Johnson products are worst in class by a wide margin.”
Apparel makers saw a decline in their overall score from 79 in 2018 to 77. The top scorer, Premier Brands (Anne Klein and Gloria Vanderbilt among them) posted an index score of 83, up five points year over year. Every other apparel maker scored lower in 2019. Hanesbrands was down two points to 80; VF (Wrangler, North Face, Dickies among many others) was down three points to 79 and Levi Strauss was down two points to 77. ACSI said the decline was “driven by lower perceptions of value at a time when the industry is under pressure to realign its practices to appeal to younger consumers concerned with the sustainability issues surrounding apparel.”
The final category in the ACSI nondurables survey is athletic shoes. The overall category score was 79, unchanged year over year. Adidas, with an index score of 83, topped Nike and its score of 81. Both improved year over year, with Adidas up five points and Nike up four. Small companies (including Skechers and New Balance) posted a score of 79, down one point from 2018. The ACSI commented, “For Nike, pricing may be at issue as the company rates worst in class on value.”