BBB National Programs Archive

Blue Buffalo, Hill’s Participate In NAD Forum

New York, NY – August 14,  2008 – The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Blue Buffalo modify or discontinue certain advertising claims for the company’s BLUE pet food. However, NAD determined that the claim “feed your pet like you feed your family,” in the proper context, is supported by the evidence in the record.

The advertiser has indicated it will appeal NAD’s findings regarding claims that the product contains “no animal by-products.”

NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, examined Website and print advertising claims made by Blue Buffalo, following a challenge by Hill’s Pet Nutrition, a manufacturer of competing pet food products.

The claims at issue included:

  • “NO Animal By-Products”
  • “And because the health of our dogs and cats is so important to us, we never use animal by-products”
  • “Most pet foods contain animal by-products. . . Before you say ‘my pet’s food has no animal by-products,’ take a minute to read the ingredients. You’ll probably be surprised to learn that you’re not feeding them as well as you thought you were.”
  • “Because the leading pet foods did not meet our standards, we developed a two-part product which combined a nutrition kibble that included human grade ingredients with our exclusive LifeSource Bits—active ingredients and antioxidants ‘cold-formed’ to preserve their potency.”
  • “Now you can feed your dog like you feed your family”
  • “Feed your pet like you feed your family.”

At the outset, the advertiser  notified NAD that it had decided for marketing reasons to permanently discontinue some claims challenged by Hill’s, including “human grade” claims, certain “feed your family” claims, certain “no animal by-products” claims, and several superiority claims. As a result, NAD limited the scope of its decision to the challenged claims the advertiser did not voluntarily agreed to discontinue.

Following its review of the evidence, including the standards established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its “no animal by-products” claims when made in reference to pet foods containing fish meal, lamb meal, and/or liver.

NAD determined that the advertiser did not have a reasonable basis for the superior nutrition message arising from the claim: “Because the leading pet foods did not meet our standards, we developed a two-part product that combined a nutrition kibble with our exclusive LifeSource Bits—active nutrients and antioxidants ‘cold formed’ to preserve their potency.”

NAD recommended that the advertiser either discontinue the claim, or modify it by omitting references to “the leading pet food manufacturers” not meeting its standards.

With regard to the claim “feed your [pet] like you feed your family, NAD recommended Blue Buffalo modify the claim as it appears in a context that touts wholesome fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients that “you put on your own dinner table.”

NAD came to a different conclusion with respect to the same claim as it appears in advertising for the Blue Organics line, which makes no reference to the product’s ingredients.

NAD found that the message conveyed by advertising for Blue Organics is that by choosing BLUE brand pet foods, consumers can feed their pets with the same care (by selecting organic ingredients) with which they feed their own families. NAD found this message to be supported by the record, which shows that BLUE brand pet food ingredients are indeed healthy and carefully chosen.

In its advertiser’s statement, the company said that while it disagreed with NAD’s findings regarding certain advertising claims, it would “take NAD’s recommendations into account in future advertising.”

The company noted, however, that it is “particularly disappointed that NAD recommended that it discontinue its ‘no animal by-products’ claims in connection with pet foods that contain lamb meal, fish meal, and/or liver.  Blue Buffalo believes that its use of the term ‘by-products’ is fully consistent with the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) definitions, state regulatory enforcement, and industry usage of the term, particularly among many of Blue Buffalo’s competitors.  Blue Buffalo believes that its ‘no animal by-products’ claims are fully substantiated.  Accordingly, Blue Buffalo will appeal this portion of the decision to the NARB.”