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Customer satisfaction with packaged foods has taken a 2.4% dip, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI®) Nondurable Products report released Tuesday. Now hanging out at 81 points out of 100, a diminished ACSI score reflects consumer gravitation towards fresh, natural products.

Attitudes towards processed foods

In the past, processed foods could simply don a Weight Watchers badge or fat-free description and be considered “healthy.” Today, that’s all changed.

Clas Fornell, ACSI Chairman and founder, says, “Buyers are looking for healthier options, but the definition of ‘healthy’ varies so widely now. In the nineties, it was all about ‘low-fat,’ but now it can be many things – sugar, protein, carbs, GMOs, artificial ingredients, allergens, gluten, organic, sustainability – you name it. The market is much more fragmented.”

For packaged food manufacturers to adapt, it’s been a delicate balance between appeasing loyal customers and riding the wave of changing trends… and so far, only three big manufacturers have succeeded.

The successful manufacturers

Hershey’s ACSI score is 86, sitting comfortably above competitors Mars and Nestlé. They’ve managed to keep customers satisfied and increase their sales by removing artificial ingredients, launching new products, and increasing visibility of nutrition facts.

Quaker is also doing well with an ACSI score of 84. Social media has been their secret weapon, as well as capitalizing on the popularity of oats.

ConAgra has jumped on the frozen food trend, revamping some of their old products and discontinuing others. Their tactics have given them a 2% boost to 82. They’ve also shifted away from the “weight loss” buzz and put the focus on nutritional value.  

Food giants with dipping ACSI scores

Some of the biggest brands in processed foods are struggling to keep up with customer preferences, including Kraft Heinz, Dole, General Mills, Mars, and Nestlé. Each of these food industry giants are sitting well below the competition at 82. Tyson and Campbell Soup landed in last place with a score of 80.

The report cites consumer resistance toward reinventing food classics (think Kraft Macaroni and Cheese) as a contributing factor to dipping ACSI scores. Additionally, consumers are steering clear of foods that were once considered healthy, like traditional yogurt and cereal.

Read more about the changing food and shopping preferences in Transparency, Healthy Choices Critical for Long-Term Success in Shifting Marketplace.

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