Customer Satisfaction With Beverages Stable

Dr Pepper Snapple sees large gains, ACSI says

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Customer satisfaction with nondurable categories comprised of everyday consumer purchases remains relatively stable, according to a report by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Purchasers of beer and soft drinks are still pleased with their chosen product, with the beverage industry showing changes in its ACSI scores of 1% or less compared with a year ago.

While U.S. sales have slumped for sugary sodas, beer and cigarettes, factors such as high quality and product innovation keep customer satisfaction relatively high and stable for these industries.

The soft drink industry maintains a high level of customer satisfaction in 2012, despite a small downturn of 1.2% to 84 on a scale of 0 to 100. Among 47 ACSI industries, only two score higher—televisions and video players/recorders at 86 and credit unions at 87. As some consumers eschew carbonated beverages such as sugary colas in favor of noncarbonated offerings like ready-to-drink teas, the major producers are doing a good job of innovating to keep pace with changing preferences.

"Overall, carbonated soft drink consumption declined 1% in 2011, but this has less to do with customer satisfaction than with a shift in consumer preference prompted by growing health concerns about sugary sodas," said Claes Fornell, ACSI founder and author of The Satisfied Customer: Winners & Losers in the Battle for Buyer Preference.

"The New York City ban on large-size sugared drinks may be a harbinger of things to come for the soft drink industry, but major firms are responding by investing in other types of beverages in apparent recognition of the market challenges that lie ahead."

The two cola giants--Coca-Cola and PepsiCo--show slight 1% downturns to 84 and remain deadlocked for customer satisfaction for a third straight year. The aggregate of smaller manufacturers matches the market-share leaders, up 1% to 84. Dr Pepper Snapple, the No. 3 soft drink producer, gains 6% to 87 and jumps into the lead.

"Nearly two decades of ACSI data show that companies with high satisfaction tend to do better in terms of profit and stock value compared with those with lower ACSI scores," said Fornell. "At 87, Dr Pepper Snapple is close to the top of the Index overall, concurrent with its stock price reaching an all-time high over the past year."

Beer makers face shrinking sales as well, with overall consumption down 2% in 2011. The industry's score slips 1.2% to 81, which is about average for brewers over time. Higher prices and a weak economy prove challenging for major brewers, with the smaller craft and specialty segment continuing to be the bright spot in the market. ACSI results show the aggregation of smaller niche brands holding onto its industry lead for 2012, stable for seventh year at an ACSI score of 83.

This year, MillerCoors, earns an ACSI score of 81. Last year, Miller did a better job of pleasing customers at 84. The lower score for the MillerCoors joint venture may reflect the higher prices commanded by Coors products. Stable at 81, Anheuser-Busch InBev ties MillerCoors, which leaves both large brewers chasing the small brands for customer satisfaction.

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