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Big Fight over Dog Food Ingredients

In May, Purina filed a lawsuit in federal court in St. Louis claiming false advertising, commercial disparagement, and unjust enrichment by Blue Buffalo. Within a few days, Blue Buffalo shot back with a countersuit, accusing Purina of an “unfounded attack” on its integrity and product quality and publicly stating that Purina sales are driven by “pretty package designs that avoid the truth of what’s actually in the bag”.

The complaint filed by Purina claims independent testing revealed the Blue samples tested contained upwards of 20% of chicken/poultry by-product meals despite the label saying it contained zero.  You can view the entire Purina complaint on their “pet food honesty” website. On Blue Buffalo’s  website, founder Bill Bishop states, “Please be assured that unlike Nestle Purina: Blue Buffalo does not use chicken by-product meal or poultry by-product meal in any of our products”.

Let’s get ready to RUUMMMBLE! Is this a fight over truth in advertising? Let’s be honest. This fight is over control of the upper tier of pet food consumers – the fastest growing segment of a multi-billion dollar pet food industry. There is a wide range of opinion over the best ingredients for your dog, but these upper level consumers are doing their homework. They want ingredients that are natural and biologically appropriate. They don’t want by-products, corn fillers or junk food.
All the big manufacturers recognize what the upper tier consumers want but they struggle between putting better ingredients in the bag versus putting profit in their pockets.

Today, people are more concerned than ever about their pet’s health and longevity. With the soaring cost of healthcare for our pets and the contaminated ingredients from 2007 – it’s a especially valid concern.  People now understand that there is a direct relation between what you feed your dog and his overall health. This concern is turning to lost sales for the kibble manufacturers with more and more people using natural homemade recipes, premium brands and raw dog food.

Big manufacturers are taking a tiny step in the right direction by recognizing the public concern about what goes into our pet’s food bowl. Large pet food manufacturers have enjoyed huge profits over the last 80 to 100 years using low cost and downright questionable ingredients. Now the pressure is on to step up their game.

Purina says Blue Buffalo is spending roughly $50 million per year on advertising with heavy emphasis on superior ingredients. Coming from a company who is probably spending a lot more on the nutritional benefits of using corn in dog food, it just seems a little odd they would start this battle. Corn is economical filler used in dog foods – but it’s not a nutrient-rich, healthy super food like they make it sound. Where do we draw the line as far as false advertising? Has Purina picked a fight that may end up with two losers?

The determining factor will be how consumers respond – forcing manufacturers to put more money in the bag instead of on it.  Or, forcing legislation to better define the ingredients and what goes on the label. What do you think… who is right?

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