Blue Buffalo vs. Nestle Purina Lawsuit
In recent years, pet owners have been requiring higher quality food for their canine and feline companions. Pet food companies have responded to consumer demands by removing nutrient-lacking fillers and adding more wholesome ingredients. However, have they really increased the nutritional value, or just claimed to?
A recent lawsuit, filed by Nestle Purina Pet Care, claims that pet food manufacturer Blue Buffalo Co. Ltd changed their advertising but not their ingredients.
Blue Buffalo Background
Blue Buffalo is a 12-year-old, family-owned pet food manufacturer that is based in Wilton, Connecticut. It originated when the founder’s own dog experienced health problems, and he became interested in creating a wholesome dog food that also contained antioxidants for better health.
The Blue Buffalo website advertises their products as including only high-quality, natural ingredients and excluding corn, chicken byproduct and fillers used by other pet food manufacturers. They even offer a True Blue test that allows site visitors to compare Blue Buffalo ingredients to those of commonly available pet food brands.
Blue Buffalo’s products come at a higher shelf price than other pet foods, but consumers have increasingly demonstrated a willingness to open their wallets for higher quality pet food.
False Advertising Claims
Purina filed suit against Blue Buffalo on May 6, 2014 stemming from their own laboratory testing of Blue Buffalo products. They claim that their testing found that Blue Buffalo pet food did contain poultry byproduct meal and corn, and that products labeled as grain-free contained rice hulls. The Courant reports that some of Blue Buffalo’s products contained more than 20 percent of poultry by-product.
According to ABC News, Purina’s lawsuit charges Blue Buffalo with false advertising, disparagement and unjust enrichment. Purina seeks to force Blue Buffalo to run corrective advertising campaigns declaring that their products do in fact contain these ingredients. Purina also seeks monetary damages from Blue Buffalo to compensate them for what they perceive to be unfair competition and false advertising.
Blue Buffalo’s Response
Blue Buffalo denies the creditability of Purina’s claims and intends to fight the allegations in court. According to an interview with Fox Business News, Blue Buffalo claims the independent testing results were due to “weird science”. Blue Buffalo’s founder Bill Bishop claims that the company doesn’t even purchase those products, so there is no way they could have been included their products.
According to a public letter posted on the Blue Buffalo website, the company denies using chicken by-product meal, poultry by-product meal, ground corn or artificial preservatives in any of its pet food products.
Bishop does state in the Fox interview that due to its smaller size, the company uses several co-manufacturing facilities to meet demand. He cites that it is possible, but very unlikely, that the contamination occurred at one of those facilities.
For now, pet stores and suppliers are taking a wait and see approach before taking action. Blue Buffalo products and advertising remain on the shelves, but pet owners and suppliers are carefully monitoring the outcome of this lawsuit. In an industry that is estimated to reach $22.62 billion in consumer spending this year, according to the American Pet Products Association, the implications could be huge.
If Blue Buffalo is found guilty, it could cause major changes for other pet food manufactures. It may even lead to higher testing and regularly standards across the pet food industry.