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Purina Alleges False Advertising, Sues Blue Buffalo

Posted: May 8, 2014, 9:25 a.m. EDT


By Clay Jackson

Advertising can deliver a good-natured ribbing like Taco Bell’s "Ronald McDonald” breakfast spots, but it also can be wielded forcefully by calling out another’s products like Blue Buffalo has done with Nestlé Purina PetCare Co. and other big pet food manufacturers.

Poke enough and a response is inevitable.

Nestlé Purina did respond in a May 6 announcement saying it had filed a lawsuit against Blue Buffalo in federal court in St. Louis because of Blue Buffalo’s claims that Nestlé Purina pet food uses inexpensive, subpar ingredients compared to its own pet food.

Nestlé Purina PetCare Company v. Blue Buffalo Company Ltd. alleges false advertising, disparagement and unjust enrichment by Blue Buffalo, a natural pet food company headquartered in Wilton, Conn.

In fact, consumers can go to Blue Buffalo’s website and compare Blue Buffalo to 14 competing brands, including several Nestlé Purina pet food brands.

Blue Buffalo Logo
Blue Buffalo Logo.

The brand-by-brand comparisons fall under Blue Buffalo’s True Blue Test and look at five areas: real meat as the first ingredient; vegetables and fruit included; no chicken or poultry byproduct meals; no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives; and no corn, wheat or soy.

Blue Buffalo is the only brand to receive across-the-board marks in the True Blue Test, with other brands earning anywhere from zero to two checks.

Nestlé Purina takes special umbrage with Blue Buffalo’s "no chicken (poultry) byproduct meals” claim, which Purina says is false and that it has the evidence to prove it.

"This is not an action we take lightly,” said Steven Crimmins, vice president and chief marketing officer of Nestlé Purina.

In its lawsuit, Nestlé Purina relies on the findings of an independent laboratory, which tested multiple formulas of Blue Buffalo food purchased from multiple retailers and found:

• Some of Blue Buffalo’s Life Protection Formula pet foods were found to contain high percentages of poultry byproduct meal;
• LifeSource Bits, vitamin-boosted dark kibble Blue Buffalo mixes in with other formulas, contain poultry byproduct meal and corn; and
• Several products promoted as "grain free” had rice hulls mixed in.

"Our commitment to owners and their pets is not a marketing ploy or advertising slogan,” Crimmins said.

"At Purina, what goes in the bag goes on the label,” he added.

In an open letter to Blue Buffalo customers, Bill Bishop, Blue Buffalo founder and chairman, said Purina’s independent test claims were based on "voodoo science.”

"We categorically deny all of these false allegations and will aggressively defend the integrity of our brand and our products,” Bishop stated.

"It is an easy thing to make unsubstantiated claims, put them in a lawsuit and then publish them all over the web to disparage and defame a company,” he continued. "It is quite another thing to prove those allegations.”

Bishop went so far as to say that Purina’s lawsuit really comes down to its "inability to compete” with natural pet foods, adding that "pet parents have demonstrated their preference by selecting true natural foods like Blue Buffalo instead of the byproduct and corn-based pet foods Nestlé Purina has been selling for years.”

This isn’t the first action taken against Blue Buffalo.

Hill’s Pet Nutrition Inc. of Topeka, Kan., complained about the misleading nature of Blue Buffalo’s True Blue Test—its online brand-comparison tool—and some of its other advertising.

Hill’s Science Diet is one of the brands featured in Blue Buffalo’s True Blue Test tool.

The National Advertising Division, a division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus in New York, found against Blue Buffalo, saying the company’s advertising "reasonably conveyed that leading pet food makers are misleading consumers by actively concealing the content of their products ... ”

"We believe consumers deserve honesty when it comes to the ingredients in the food they choose to feed their pets,” Crimmins said.

"We have a saying at Blue Buffalo: ‘When we’re right, we fight,’” Bishop said. "We look forward to seeing Nestlé Purina in court.”

"We are confident in our independent testing, and we look forward to proving our case in court,” Purina countered.

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Purina Alleges False Advertising, Sues Blue Buffalo

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Reader Comments
Blue food sucks and is making animals sick!
My 6lb. chorkie got very sick from blue food last year.
My own vet said that blue sucks.
I was luck she recovered after 3 weeks and $1,000+
I would NEVER EVER recommend blue food every.
It is still making animals sick to the present day.
LINK
dela, austin, TX
Posted: 5/25/2014 8:48:27 AM
Truth in advertising? Check out this stuff... LINK from Purina's website LINK

Dog molars are for grinding grains, just like horses? Except the jaw hinges are totally different, dogs can't grind like herbivores. Molars are for crunching bones. Long digestive tract? Seriously?

Talk about "tailoring" science to back up your inappropriate ingredients. Blue should countersue.
Jeff, International
Posted: 5/13/2014 9:37:20 AM
can they publicly release this study? I can't find any info anywhere, just that they are suing blue. This in itself will lose blue customers who here news titles and don't look any further into it.

purina makes garbage food and is trying to mislead customers of premium brands. Absolutely disgusting.
ian, tallahassee, FL
Posted: 5/8/2014 1:35:10 PM
Purina's dispute is that Blue Buffalo life bits contain "some amounts" of poultry by product meal? That's it? That’s the worst they can say? Unless they can stand up and dispute what Blue Buffalo has stated is in Purina's dog food, they need to sit down and concentrate their money and efforts on improving their products. As we've learned on many occasions, there are things in the foods we eat that are suddenly 'found out about' - yet they keep right on selling them and we keep right on buying. The point is, Blue Buffalo, as well as many, many other dog foods, are far superior to the majority of Purina foods. Period. Just read the label. That’s all you have to do to see the crap “filler” stuff that is the majority. Purina's business is hurting because of it. Nothing is perfect. No food we buy for ourselves is perfect. And if you bought it at a store - it’s got something in it you don't know about. ALL people and other food manufacturers disguise ingredients within other ingredients, so it’s not glaring at you. Blue Buffalo or similar brands of quality dog food perfect? No. Exceedingly superior to many if not the majority of Purina's foods? YES!! Purina, unless you have a dispute with what they have said about the food you make for dogs, hush and get busy improving the low quality food you make that contains about 98.9%, corn, various by-products, meals, artificial ingredients and just plain icky stuff.
Debbie, Dublin, GA
Posted: 5/8/2014 12:21:49 PM
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