Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Noose Closes on Blue Buffalo

Nestle Purina filed suit against Blue Buffalo in May of 2014, noting that Blue Buffalo was misleading it customers by claiming that its "True Blue Promise" brand pet foods contained no poultry by-products when, in fact, they did.

Blue Buffalo howled in protest, but Purina said it has the lab tests and Blue Buffalo's own tests showed, in fact, that there was considerable poultry by product in their dog food. Blue Buffalo said it had no way of knowing, since it is just a lick-and-stick company and does not makes its dog food or (apparently) test it.

Blue Buffalo, of course, had used the exact same defense some years earlier, when it was caught mixing Chinese-imported contaminants into their dog food.

Signaling to all that they know they are caught, and that millions of dollars will change hands before it is all over, Blue Buffalo has now added fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation and negligence claims against Wilbur-Ellis and Diversified Ingredients Inc. which were the contractors it hired to make their adulterated dog food.  You add claims on your side when you know payments will have to be made and you are looking to cost-shift.

Nestle Purina PetCare has now filed an amended claim against Blue Buffalo alleging the company misrepresented its LifeSource Bits food for cats and dogs by suggesting they contain a “cornucopia” of premium ingredients and that its Savory Sizzlers treats contain bacon. The packages for the dog and cat foods in question featuring depictions of pumpkins, blueberries, bacon and home-cooked turkey dinners on the packages when, in fact, these are not the main ingredients. Blue Buffalo's response has been to argue (and I am barely paraphrasing) that sure we misrepresent but everyone does, and so freaking what?  Liars gotta lie.  Amiright?

Purina, which has been making their own dry, kibbled, bagged dog food from domestic sources for more than 100 years says on its lawsuit-dedicated web site, Pet Food Honesty:

By-Products Are A Safe And Nutritious Ingredient in Pet Food. This case is not about the nutritional value of by-products and by-product meal, nutrient-rich ingredients that we proudly use in many of our pet food products. Truth-in-labeling and advertising is the issue.

We filed this lawsuit because some of Blue Buffalo’s best-selling products contain by-product meal despite their marketing to the contrary. Our review of manufacturing and shipment records forced Blue Buffalo to finally admit in court that a “substantial” and “material” portion of Blue Buffalo pet food sold over the past several years contained poultry by-product meal. It is unclear to us if or when the practice stopped, or whether any Blue Buffalo pet food containing by-product meal is still on store shelves.

Our lawsuit followed decisions against Blue Buffalo by the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus that found Blue Buffalo’s advertisements to be misleading and disparaging against competitors’ products. Click here for more details. At Purina, we firmly believe that what is in the bag should be on the label.
So what's next? Whether it goes to court or the settlement table, Blue Buffalo is going to lose. It's been caught, and the facts are incontestable. Now the only question is the scope of the sanction and what happens at Blue Buffalo next.

At the end of 2014, the company seems to have floated the rumor that they were going to be purchased by Mars, and then there was another rumored IPO, but from what I can see neither occurred. It would not take much for Blue Buffalo to become a "toxic brand" in terms of marketing, and who would want to buy Blue Buffalo with these charges and allegations hanging over it?

1 comment:

jeff hays said...

Blue Buffalo did an IPO a couple months ago. First day " pop" of 36%
Have to check to see where they are currently. IF memory serves me I believe the founder was convicted of felony fraud or similar before the dog food scam. People are endlessly gullible though, especially with children and pets. Hope he gets tapped hard.