NAD Finds Supported Petco’s Claim that it is “Setting a Bold New Standard for Nutrition”; Recommends Modification|Discontinuance of Certain “No More Artificials” Claims

For Immediate Release

Contact: Laura Brett, Director, NAD, 212.705.0109 / lbrett@bbbnp.org

 

New York, NY – April 22, 2020 – The National Advertising Division (“NAD”) determined that Petco Animal Supplies, Inc. had submitted evidence sufficient to demonstrate that it is “setting a bold new standard for nutrition” and that it “will continue to evaluate and evolve [its] standards and assortment to take pet nutrition to new levels.” However, NAD recommended that Petco modify claims that it is removing “all” artificial ingredients or that there will be “no more artificials” in any dog food or treats. NAD also recommended that Petco modify certain hyperlinks to its “Better Nutrition” page, discontinue its characterization of artificial ingredients (i.e. as contained in other pet foods or carried by its competitors) as “nasties” or “bad stuff” and related imagery as to such pet foods in its video advertisement, and discontinue claims that as a result of its initiative to remove artificial ingredients from its store shelves, Petco provides “better nutrition.”

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is a division of the BBB National Programs’ self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs.

As part of NAD’s routine monitoring program, NAD requested substantiation for the following advertising claims, appearing in television and Internet advertisements, direct-to-consumer emails and in-store materials as part of Petco’s “no artificial ingredients” advertising campaign:

 

Express claims:

 

  • “No more nasties.”
  • “No more artificials* in any dog food or treats (*learn more at Petco.com/betternutrition).”
  • “We’re turning our back on artificial ingredients. All dog and cat food and treats will be artificial free* (*learn more on our Better Nutrition page).”
  • “Bye bye bad stuff – all dog and cat food artificial free on May 1.”
  • “We’ve gone artificial-free* and so can you! (*Learn more about what’s leaving here).”
  • “Artificial ingredients are out.”
  • “Turning our back on artificial food. When you love your pets, you do what’s right for them. Which is why we’re setting a bold new standard for nutrition.”

 

Implied claims:

 

  • Petco only sells pet food with all-natural ingredients.
  • Pet food sold at Petco is healthier than pet food with artificial ingredients that is not sold at Petco.
  • Pet food with artificial ingredients is unhealthy for pets.

 

NAD noted that Petco launched a costly but laudable initiative with a difficult goal: to stop selling dog and cat foods and treats with artificial ingredients at Petco and address the concerns and preferences of pet owners about artificial ingredients. In rolling out its initiative, Petco has collaborated with its vendors and partners to define a standard, refine it and reformulate products without artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. As part of its advertising campaign for its initiatives, Petco educates consumers about the new standard and directs them to its consistently updated website where Petco explains what ingredients have been removed and why.

NAD concluded that Petco’s claims that it is “setting a bold new standard for nutrition” and that it “will continue to evaluate and evolve [its] standards and assortment to take pet nutrition to new levels” are supported by a reasonable basis.

NAD noted that as part of Petco’s initiative to remove from its store shelves all dog and cat foods and treats containing artificial ingredients, it lists the ingredients that do not meet its nutritional standards (i.e. specific artificial colors, flavors and preservatives), with a few exceptions, including two formulas for cats that include Titanium Dioxide and products with synthetic vitamins, minerals and amino acid supplements. Petco also noted that its removal of products does not include “[s]ubstances that are derivatives or mimics of natural compounds” or those that “may fall into categories outside the Petco definition of artificial flavors and preservatives.” Because such statements directly contradict the unequivocal statements that Petco is removing “all” artificial ingredients or that there will be “no more artificials” in any dog food or treats, NAD recommended that such claims be modified. NAD recommended that the advertiser narrowly tailor these claims to more accurately convey the more limited message that Petco has commenced its initiative to remove certain artificial ingredients from its stores (or foods containing certain artificial ingredients) – as properly qualified from its disclosed list of ingredients being removed from its shelves.

NAD also recommended certain other modifications to Petco advertising, including to the placement of its qualifying disclosure (that “artificial ingredients” does not include synthetic vitamins, minerals and amino acids); to the labels of certain hyperlinks used by Petco in conjunction with its “no more artificials”-related claims on in-store materials and certain internet advertisements linking to Petco’s “Better Nutrition” page (providing detailed information on the removed artificial ingredients); and to the layout of Petco’s “Better Nutrition” page.

NAD determined that the claims, “no more nasties” and “bye bye bad stuff” cannot be considered puffery because these claims describe the pet food being removed from Petco (but sold by its competitors) in language that clearly matters to consumers. Consumer preference evidence showed that dog and cat owners care and are concerned about artificial ingredients in dog and cat food and treats. However, NAD noted that the advertiser did not submit evidence comparing the health benefits of dog or cat food containing artificial ingredients to those that do not have artificial ingredients (or their nutrition profiles), or that pet food containing these artificial ingredients is, in fact “bad” for (or should not be consumed by) pets. Consequently, NAD recommended that Petco discontinue its characterization of artificial ingredients (i.e. as contained in other pet foods or carried by its competitors) as “nasties” or “bad stuff” and related imagery as to such pet foods in its video advertisement. NAD noted, however, that nothing in its decision precludes the advertiser from accurately communicating that Petco listened to consumers and responded to their preferences and concerns via an ongoing initiative to remove certain artificial ingredients from its shelves.

Finally, NAD concluded that the evidence in the record was insufficient to provide a reasonable basis for the advertiser’s claims that, as a result of its initiative to remove artificial ingredients from its store shelves, Petco provides “better nutrition,” and recommended discontinuance of such claims. Likewise, NAD recommended that the advertiser modify the language of its URL (www.petco.com/betternutrition) and hashtag (#BETTERNUTRITION) to avoid the implication that the pet food sold at Petco (without artificial ingredients) is healthier or provides “better nutrition” than pet food sold elsewhere (that contain these artificial ingredients). Similarly, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its claim that Petco’s new nutrition standards are a first step, in a journey to “better health for the pets we love.”

In its advertiser’s statement, Petco took issue with certain of NAD’s findings regarding implied claims but agreed to comply with NAD’s recommendations.  

 

###

 

About the National Advertising Division: National Advertising Division (NAD), a division of BBB National Programs, provides independent self-regulation overseeing the truthfulness of advertising across the U.S. NAD reviews national advertising in all media and its decisions set consistent standards for truth and accuracy.

 

About BBB National Programs: BBB National Programs fosters trust, innovation, and competition in the marketplace through the development and delivery of cost-effective, third-party self-regulation, dispute resolution and other programs. BBB National Programs is the home of industry self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs that include the National Advertising Division (NAD), National Advertising Review Board (NARB), BBB EU Privacy Shield, BBB AUTO LINE, Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), Children’s Confection Advertising Initiative (CCAI), Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council (DSSRC), Digital Advertising Accountability Program (Accountability Program), and the Coalition for Better Advertising Dispute Resolution Program (CBA DRM). The programs are designed to resolve business issues and advance shared objectives by responding to marketplace concerns to create a better customer experience. To learn more about industry self-regulation, please visit: BBBNP.org.

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