Coca-Cola is the most respected brand in the US, narrowly ahead of rival Pepsico and candy company Hershey, while Delta Airlines is the least respected big brand, according to research from CoreBrand, a leading brand strategy and communications firm and creator of the Corporate Branding Index, which provides benchmarking data on more than 1,000 companies across 50 industries.

The new report, Brand Respect: The Most and Least Respected Corporate Brands, identifies Coca-Cola, Pepsico, Hershey, Bayer and Johnson&Johnson as the most respected brands, followed by Harley-Davidson, IBM, Apple, Kellogg and General Electric.

Coca-Cola retained top status after breaking last year's tie with Pepsi, but both brands declined in favorability, a change CoreBrand believes is partially due to the challenges each company faces from the "better-for-you foods movement." IBM, Apple and General Electric are all new to the Most Respected list this year.

Delta Airlines was the least respected brand, on a list dominated by financial services companies and mass market retailers: H&R Block, Big Lots, Denny's, Best Buy, Rite Aid, JC Penney, Capital One Financial, Family Dollar Stores, and Sprint Nextel. Philip Morris and Foot Locker dropped off the Least Respected list, but for different reasons: Philip Morris' brand continues its long decline, and no longer has a familiarity that qualifies it for this analysis; Foot Locker, which barely made it onto the list last year, has increased its favorability by +1.8 points, allowing it to move off the list.

"The respect a brand has earned, and can keep, speaks directly to its overall valuation and acceptance, and verifying where a brand stands is essential in assessing the foundations of a company's future," says Jim Gregory, CEO of CoreBrand. "High brand respect instills trust among consumers and key stakeholders, allowing a company to maintain a strong reputation that will positively impact its business.

“Meanwhile, the 10 least respected brands—or simply the brands with the largest discrepancies between familiarity and favorability – need to realign perceptions in order to enhance their image and build back respect."