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12.10.2009

We Like Chocolate and Beer. Cigarettes, Not That Much - BusinessWeek

We Like Chocolate and Beer. Cigarettes, Not That Much - BusinessWeek:

Posted by: Michael Arndt

"Turns out candy is dandy, at least during recessions. Beer is pretty OK, too, but cigarettes are a vice that even smokers increasingly say they ain’t worth it. Overall, says the latest customer satisfaction survey by the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, American consumers are as happy with grocery-store goods as they were three months ago.

Among food companies, Hershey and Nestle both moved up 2 points while Mars gained 1 point from a year earlier, to an average score of 86 (out of a possible 100). That’s their highest score ever. The trio last had an upsurge that big in the 2001 recession and in 2004, when worries about the widening Iraq War and higher fuel prices had consumers scurrying back to comfort foods, says Ross School Professor Claes Fornell, who heads the index.

Not every comfort food maker is more beloved, however. Conagra’s standing dropped 7 points from a year earlier, to 78, an all-time low. Fornell attributes the decline to higher prices—Conagra jacked them up an average of 25%. Heinz retains its No. 1 ranking, with a score of 89.

Beer still hits the spot. Customers say they’re more satisfied with their beer buys than ever before, pushing the industry’s average score to 84. The biggest gainer: Anheuser-Busch, which rose 4 points to an all-time high of 85. Yes, the company is no longer American. But U.S. consumers appreciate its cheaper brands Natural Light and Busch. Meantime, Coors, which is generally pricier, sagged 2 points, to 81. Miller moved up 1 point, to 83.

Higher prices, this time from federal taxes that more than doubled, made smokers think less of cigarettes. Both Philip Morris and Reynolds American sagged to 72, falling 9 points and 8 points, respectively. Neither had ever been below 75."

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