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Kroger rose 12 places to No. 9 on the 2020 Axios Harris Poll 100 and was a top performer on two new measures in the survey, 'best on COVID' and 'best on racial equality.'

Grocery retailers get high marks in corporate reputation ranking

Top finishers in Axios Harris Poll 100 ‘responded decisively’ to COVID-19 crisis

Amazon, Publix Super Markets, Wegmans Food Markets, Costco Wholesale and The Kroger Co. finished in the top 10 of the 2020 Axios Harris Poll 100, which ranked the reputations of the “most visible” U.S. companies.

Based on interviews from a national sample of 34,026 U.S. adults, the Axios Harris Poll 100 rates companies identified as “top of mind” with the public on a Reputation Quotient (RQ) scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the top score.

New York-based Harris Poll, which released the list Thursday, said the RQ reflects a company’s performance as rated by respondents in seven key areas: trust (“Is this a company I trust?”), vision (“Does this company have a clear vision for the future?), growth (“Is this a growing company?”), products and services (“Does this company develop innovative products and services that I want and value?”), culture (“Is this a good company to work for?”), ethics (“Does this company maintain high ethical standards?”) and citizenship (“Does this company share my values and support good causes?”).

Because of the historic nature of the coronavirus pandemic, The Harris Poll noted that it fielded ratings twice, following up the initial surveys in January and February with additional polling in June and July to measure any shifts in company reputation or visibility and to include metrics related to the COVID-19 crisis. As a result, companies that “responded decisively” during the pandemic improved their rating.

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Among grocery retailers, Amazon (owner of Whole Foods Market) came in highest on the list, at No. 3 overall with a score of 81.4, followed by Publix at No. 4 (81.2), Wegmans at No. 6 (80.4), Costco at No. 7 (80.3) and Kroger at No. 9 (79.4).

Scores of 80 and above are deemed “excellent,” while 75 to 79 labeled as “very good.” The poll describes scores of 70 to 74 as “good” and 65 to 69 as “fair.”

Other retailers in the food, drug and mass channel making the Axios Harris Poll 100 list were CVS Health at No. 37 (score of 75.6), Walgreens at No. 38 (75.6), Target at No. 51 (74.2), Walmart at No. 85 (68.1) and Dollar General at No. 90 (65.6). Online grocery delivery giant Instacart came in at No. 44 with a score of 74.7.

Target was among the biggest improvers/decliners, rising from No. 72 in last year’s poll to No. 51 this year. Also seeing double-digit changes in their 2020 ranking versus 2019 were Kroger (+12), Costco (+11), CVS (+11) and Dollar General (-14).

“Throughout the public health crisis, our entire team of 500,000 associates has worked tirelessly to provide a safe environment for our customers and each other, with open stores, e-commerce solutions and an efficiently operating supply chain so that our communities have access to fresh, affordable food and essentials,” Kroger Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen said in a statement on Kroger’s No. 9 finish in the Axios Harris Poll 100. “At Kroger, our ‘Purpose is to Feed the Human Spirit,’ which means we are driven to do more and help make the lives of those around us better, especially in times of uncertainty. I’m so proud of our associates’ ongoing commitment to being there for our communities when they need us most.”

Kroger noted that it also was a top performer on two new measures in the survey, including “best on COVID” (meaningful actions to address the challenges of COVID-19) and “best on racial equality” (meaningful actions in support of racial equality). 

“The dual crises of COVID-19 and racial injustice have only accelerated Kroger’s long-standing commitment to supporting our associates, customers and communities,” commented Keith Dailey, Kroger’s group vice president of corporate affairs and chief communications and sustainability officer. “Kroger’s inclusion in the top 10 for the first time on the Axios Harris Poll 100 is a testament to our associates rising to meet the moment by living our purpose, and to our leaders for their commitment to deepening ESG integration in our business.”

Across the seven key attributes of reputation, grocery retailers were top 10 finishers in ethics (Publix at No. 2, Costco at No. 4, Kroger at No. 5), culture (Publix at No. 1, Amazon at No. 8), citizenship (Publix at No. 2, Wegmans at No. 4, Costco at No. 7, Amazon at No. 8), products and services (Amazon at No. 3), growth (Amazon at No. 1, Costco at No. 5, Kroger at No. 6), vision (Amazon at No. 1, Publix at No. 4, Kroger at No. 6) and trust (Publix at No. 1, Costco at No. 5, Wegmans at No. 8, Kroger at No. 9 and Amazon at No. 10).

Rounding out the top 10 in the overall Axios Harris Poll 100, which spanned a range of industry sectors, were The Clorox Co. at No. 1 (82.8 score), The Hershey Co. at No. 2 (81.5), General Mills at No. 5 (81.2), Procter & Gamble at No. 8 (79.9) and UPS at No. 10 (79.4).

“Now more than ever, companies that performed well on traditional reputation measures and responded to our global health crisis have the best reputations,” John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll, said in a statement. “Americans say large companies — with resources, infrastructure and advanced logistics — came to America's rescue during the pandemic. In fact, today, big business is seen as more reliable than the federal government in keeping America running.”

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Of U.S. consumers polled, 81% agreed that the capabilities and resources of big companies are “even more vital now to America's future than before the pandemic.” Similarly, 76% believed that, during the COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdowns, companies generally were more reliable than the federal government “in keeping America running.”

Seventy-nine percent of respondents expect a company’s leadership to respond to a crisis like COVID-19 or racial equality, the survey revealed. What’s more, 72% of those polled said they trust companies more than the federal government to help find solutions to issues related to COVID-19 and racial equality.

Consumers, too, look closely at where companies stand on key issues. Seventy-nine percent agreed that a company’s vision of the world is now more important than in the past, while 76% think a company’s history on a social issue carries weight.

“What real people think about your company has never mattered more than it does today. Your brand perception can impact everything from recruitment and retention to sales and ultimately, the bottom line,” stated Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei. “As the multiple crises plaguing America rage on, the Axios Harris Poll 100 is a clear benchmark of who is winning and losing in the public eye.”

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