Purina Sues Blue Buffalo, Alleging False Advertising

Smaller brand boasted of better ingredients

Nestle’s Purina PetCare Company has filed a lawsuit against The Blue Buffalo Company, accusing Blue Buffalo of false advertising, commercial disparagement and unjust enrichment.

Purina's complaint follows a March ruling by the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, which found that Blue Buffalo engaged in misleading advertising practices. NAD recommended that the company correct its television ad campaigns and that it remove all of the allegations that Blue Buffalo's competitors are misleading their consumers. 

“[Blue Buffalo] has not provided any evidence that ‘big name’ pet food manufacturers … are actively concealing the truth about the ingredients in their products,” NAD wrote in its ruling. 

According to the complaint, which Purina filed today in St. Louis, Blue Buffalo built its brand by targeting ingredient-conscious pet owners and falsely promoting its products to be free of chicken or poultry byproducts as well as corn, other grains and artificial preservatives as part of its "True Blue Promise." After conducting tests at an independent laboratory in April, Purina alleges that Blue Buffalo's products contain amounts of chicken or poultry byproducts as well as corn, other grains and artificial preservatives. 

Purina is asking the court to require Blue Buffalo to run corrective advertising and that the company destroy all packaging and other materials that display the alleged false statements. In addition, Purina is seeking damages. 

Purina isn't the first brand to file suit against Blue Buffalo—in July 2008 Hill's Science Diet filed a challenge with NAD against Blue Buffalo. According to Purina's complaint, while NAD's 2008 ruling did have the company change slogans, the company has continued to deceptively market its products. 

Purina alleges that Blue Buffalo spent $50 million on advertising in 2013 and that the company intends to spend as much in 2014. 

A representative for Blue Buffalo did not immediately respond to Adweek's requests for comment. A Purina rep referred Adweek to the company's complaint.

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