BBB National Programs Archive

Mars Petcare U.S., Hill’s Pet Nutrition Participate In NAD Forum

New York, NY – Dec. 15,  2008 – The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Mars Petcare U.S., Inc., the maker of Nutro Products brand Natural Choice Complete Care Dry Cat Food, discontinue the advertising claim “Veterinarian Recommended.” NAD determined, however, that the advertiser could support the nutritional claim “Everything Your Cat Needs in One Bag.”

NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, examined claims made in Internet advertisements and on point-of-purchase materials and product packaging for Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Dry Cat Food, following a challenge by Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc., maker of Hill’s Science Diet and Hill’s Prescription Diet brand pet foods.  The case handled under the NAD’s expedited decision procedures.

The claims at issues included:

  • “Veterinarian Recommended.”
  • “Recommended by Veterinarians.” 

NAD further requested substantiation for the advertiser’s claim, “Everything Your Cat Needs in One Bag.”

NAD, in its decision, noted that “Veterinarian Recommended” claims, like “Doctor Recommended” claims carry a great deal of weight with consumers and convey powerful messages in the marketplace.  Consequently, NAD closely scrutinizes these types of claims and requires highly reliable supporting evidence as substantiation.

NAD examined evidence that included a 2005 “District Manager Survey,” which required Nutro Products district managers throughout North America to list all veterinary clinics in their respective districts that sold Natural Choice Complete Care Cat food, as well as those clinics that did not sell the brand, but nevertheless recommended it to their clients.  The information was obtained through personal interviews with the veterinarians in the respective clinics.  Evidence also included responses to a questionnaire distributed by the advertiser at the 2007 North American Veterinary Conference.

NAD expressed concerns with both the survey and questionnaire results, and concluded that the evidence provided was insufficient to provide a reasonable basis for the advertiser’s “Veterinarian Recommended” claim. NAD recommended that the claim be discontinued.

NAD determined, however, that the product meets the nutritional standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials and that the evidence supported the advertiser’s claim that the product provides “Everything Your Cat Needs in One Bag.”

The company, in its advertiser’s statement, said that “with respect to the challenged ‘Recommended by Veterinarians’ claim, we continue to believe that it is truthful and non-misleading.  However, out of respect for NAD and the self-regulatory process, we accept the decision regarding this claim in the context in which it was made and shall take it into consideration in future communications.”