Despite all the years of claimed improvements, the one thing no one has perfected is preventing leakage, which generally occurs within a few weeks of the batteries running out. I’ve seen a wide variety of brands, including Duracell, Every Ready, etc., although mainly while stored in a container for several weeks awaiting disposal. Due to the price of Lithium AAs, I’ve only ever used 2 in the past, so am unable to comment about how reliable they are for not leaking. Nice to hear Energizer will replace items damaged by leakage.
I’ve also used a lot of budget store Alkaline batteries in the past and they don’t seem to be any worse for leakage, as long as they were removed once the batteries were flat. The only batteries that leaked while still in an item in the past few years were two Duracell Ultra’s in my audio amp remote, where the remote worked one day and the next day had goo over the battery cover from one of its AAAs.
I don’t recall having any Alkaline AA or AAA batteries dead fresh out of the pack even after a few years of storage. However, I have seen Alkaline button cells (watch batteries) dead and leak without ever being used. So I’d advise sticking with the more expensive lithium cells instead for watches.
From my experience, Ni-MH rechargeable batteries seem to be the most reliable for not leaking. I’ve only had 4 leak and that was after at least 5 years of storage, i.e. forgotten about until a recent room remodelling.
If you do make the switch to rechargeable AAs or AAAs, I strongly recommend getting pre-charged Ni-MH’s, which are also known as “Ready to use” or “Hybrid” batteries. They have a different chemistry to prevent them self-discharging, the main issue where batteries would otherwise self-discharge in just a few months. For example, the Sanyo Enloops claim to retain 75% charged after 3 years of storage. From my experience, they also work better in flash lights and camera flashes that use AAs, particularly when left a drawer and I’ve pretty much stopped using regular Ni-MH’s altogether as a result.