As consumers demand more information about ingredients and manufacturing processes — and healthier food overall — it may feel like they’re difficult to please.
But it appears listening and fine-tuning products and processes can pay off, according to a new report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).
Launched in 1994 by researchers at the University of Michigan in conjunction with the American Society for Quality and the CFI Group, the index provides information on satisfaction with the quality of products and services available to consumers. 
The ACSI interviews roughly 250,000 consumers each year, analyzing their satisfaction with more than 380 companies in 46 industries and 10 economic sectors, including services of federal and local government agencies. All measures are reported on a scale of 0 to 100.
Food manufacturing, breweries and soft drinks all scored above 80, with breweries earning the highest rating of 85. Food manufacturing and soft drinks tied for third, but food manufacturing saw a 1.2 percent increase while customers’ satisfaction with soft drinks dropped 2.4 percent.
The ACSI cited a few reasons for the growth of food manufacturing’s score.
“The gain is partially the result of a slower-than-expected rise in food prices, but quality improvements have also contributed,” the report reads. “Consumers are showing a greater interest in fresh, natural, and organic products — and food companies have taken note.”
A candy and snack company — The Hershey Co. — earned a rating of 86, the highest rating in the category. Mars tied for third with General Mills and Quaker, each earning a rating of 84. However, Mars gained two points over 2017.
Nestlé, which handed over its U.S. confectionery brands to Ferrero in January, scored an 82 for the second year.
“After years of falling chocolate sales, the Swiss food group sold its U.S. confectionery to Italy’s Ferrero to concentrate more on health foods,” the report reads. “While consumers consider Nestlé’s quality to be lacking, Ferrero intends to reformulate key brands, including Butterfinger, with ingredients and packaging to ensure a better and fresher product by spring 2019.”
Knowing that three confectionery companies earned top spots with ratings of 80 or better is a source of pride. It shows commitment to quality and transparency can win over consumers who are clearly paying attention.
And while Hershey, Mars, Nestlé and Ferrero are household names, there’s no doubt that small and mid-sized manufacturers are working just as hard to ensure their products meet and exceed consumers’ standards.
It also helps that consumers just love candy. Nonetheless, keep up the good work. Time to enjoy a piece of chocolate in celebration.