Nestlé Purina has legally locked horns with competitor over alleged false claims and false advertising.
May 11, 2015
By Julie Scheidegger
Blue Buffalo has admitted in federal court that a “substantial” and “material” portion of its pet food contained poultry byproduct meal, according to a release distributed by Nestlé Purina, which sued Blue Buffalo a year ago for false advertising.
After Blue Buffalo advertising claims were brought to the attention of the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus for review, in early 2014 NAD encouraged Blue Buffalo to modify its advertising claims concluding that ads were falsely disparaging to competitors. This included the “True Blue Test,” which NAD said conveyed the message that competing “big name” pet food companies were deceiving consumers. This prompted Nestlé Purina to send samples of Blue Buffalo for analysis. As cited in the lawsuit, tests showed the presence of poultry by-product meal in nine out of 10 Blue Buffalo pet food products.
A year to the day after Nestlé Purina PetCare Co. brought its lawsuit against Blue Buffalo Co. LTD, Purina spokesperson Keith Schopp said, “Through a $50 million annual advertising campaign that flooded airwaves and pet food aisles alike, Blue Buffalo told consumers over and over, emphatically and without qualification, that its products never contain poultry by-product meal.”
Blue Buffalo has not returned dvm360’s requests for comment, but on its website its FAQ page continues to claim that “Blue pet food contains no chicken or poultry-by-product meals.” Blue Buffalo filed a countersuit against Nestlé Purina in May 2014 alleging “a sophisticated and carefully orchestrated advertising campaign … that falsely attacks Blue Buffalo’s honesty and the quality of its products.”
According to the Purina release, Blue Buffalo is requesting additional time to file an amended complaint with the court naming its ingredient suppliers as defendants. Bill Bishop, founder and chairman of Blue Buffalo, issued a letter to customers in October of last year saying the company had learned that one of its suppliers had mislabeled some ingredients. He said Blue Buffalo received shipments of poultry byproduct meal instead of 100 percent chicken meal. Bishop assured customers that the company had stopped doing business with that manufacturing plant.
Schopp says blaming the supplier isn’t a satisfactory response. “Blue Buffalo now claims it had no way of knowing the bags contained byproduct meal,” he says. “A manufacturer is responsible for knowing what’s in its product, and a simple audit of its supply chain would have revealed what we discovered after reviewing the documentation.
“Only when faced with undeniable evidence from the lawsuit has Blue Buffalo admitted the truth to the court: a ‘substantial’ and ‘material’ portion of Blue Buffalo pet food sold over the past several years contained poultry byproduct meal,” Schopp continues. “It is unclear to us if or when this practice stopped, or whether any Blue Buffalo pet food containing byproduct meal is still on store shelves.”
Schopp asserts that Blue Buffalo owes consumers an apology for false statements, false labels and false advertising. He also calls for the Purina competitor to prove that no mislabeled products remain in the market.