The H.J. Heinz Co. is still among the leaders in customer satisfaction among food manufacturers, but the Pittsburgh ketchup maker saw its score slip in an annual index based at the University of Michigan.
For the first time in more than a decade, Heinz found itself in a tie for the best rating, as its score was matched by two other food companies -- General Mills, which improved its score by 5 percent, and Quaker, which had a 1 percent gain, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index.
Overall, the index showed customer satisfaction with nondurable products such as food, soft drinks, athletic shoes and personal care products slipped 1.2 percent to a score of 80.9 out of 100.
Customer satisfaction with grocery food products ranging from chocolate, ketchup and cereal to meat, cheese and frozen foods fell 2.4 percent to earn a score of 81, the researchers said.
The decline was blamed on rising prices in the official analysis of the index founded by Claes Fornell, a professor of business administration at the university in Ann Arbor, Mich. In the past year, the consumer price index has risen 1.5 percent, although the increase in food prices was slightly lower at 1 percent, the researchers said.
The index tracks consumer sentiment through interviews, looking at different sectors throughout the year. The researchers claim the index serves as a good indicator of the overall economy's performance, offering insights into where consumers will spend and which sectors may see growth.
Data for the most recent update came through interviews with almost 6,000 customers, polled by phone and email between mid-July and early September, before the federal government shutdown started in October.
Heinz, which has regularly touted its customer satisfaction score as one of the company's achievements, saw its score drop 2 percent to 87, the same level that General Mills and Quaker earned.
Another Pennsylvania company, Hershey, improved its score by 1 percent to earn an 86. It was tied with Kraft, which surged 6 percent.
Kellogg gained 2 percent to earn an 85, while four companies -- Campbell Soup, Dole, Hillshire Brands and Mars -- all earned scores of 84. ConAgra and Nestle tied at 83. Tyson, along with smaller manufacturers and store brands, trailed the rankings at 80.
In the soft drink category, the Dr Pepper Snapple Group's score fell 1 percent but still performed the best among its peers. PepsiCo came in second, followed by Coca-Cola.businessnews
Teresa F. Lindeman: email@example.com or at 412-263-2018. First Published October 14, 2013 8:00 PM