Nestlé Purina PetCare Company (Purina) today announced that it has filed a lawsuit in federal court in St. Louis against The Blue Buffalo Company Ltd., for false advertising, disparagement and unjust enrichment – including violations of the Federal Lanham Act (15 U.S.C. §1125(a)).
Blue Buffalo’s promotion, advertising and packaging repeatedly and unequivocally state that its pet food products contain “NO Chicken/Poultry By-Product Meals.” In its complaint, Purina alleges that testing conducted by an independent laboratory revealed that several of Blue Buffalo’s top-selling “Life Protection” pet food products contained significant percentages of poultry by-product meal. Testing was done from samples of multiple formulas of Blue Buffalo pet food purchased at retail stores on both the East and West Coasts.
The complaint also alleges that testing shows Blue Buffalo “LifeSource Bits” contain poultry by-product meal and corn. In addition, several Blue Buffalo products promoted as “grain-free” actually contain rice hulls, despite Blue Buffalo stating on its website that its “grain-free” products will “free your pet from the grains and glutens that cause allergic reactions in some dogs.”
The complaint estimates that Blue Buffalo spent approximately $50 million in 2013 to promote its claims that Blue Buffalo ingredients are superior to competitors. As a result, Blue Buffalo charges premium prices for its products – significantly more than the pet food products they use for comparison purposes on the Blue Buffalo website.
The lawsuit follows a March 2014 decision of the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, which found that Blue Buffalo is engaging in misleading advertising practices with respect to its claims about competing products. The NAD decision recommended that Blue Buffalo correct its television ad campaigns by removing all of its allegations that Blue Buffalo’s competitors are misleading consumers.
A copy of the complaint and exhibits can be found at a website Purina has created to highlight its concerns: www.petfoodhonesty.com.