Personally, I’m worn thin reading about the fight between pet food giants Purina and Blue Buffalo. But this article got my attention and made me a little angry. Here’s the non-consumer friendly remarks from Purina, Blue, and Veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Larsen.
The Businessweek article is clearly in favor of Purina in this pet food fight. Blue Buffalo felt the same with a comment published by the paper as follow up. But regardless if these statements were taken out of context as Blue Buffalo claims, they are concerning.
Quotes from Blue Buffalo CEO Bill Bishop…
“You can get into the market small with contract manufacturers making the stuff,” he says, displaying an easy candor. “Slap on a good label, come up with a slogan, and off you go,” he says. “There were already a lot of smoke and mirrors in how pet food was advertised, and that was the sort of stuff we were good at.”
My comment: I don’t know if Blue Buffalo’s founder was misquoted or if his comment was taken out of context as he claims, but this type of ‘all about the marketing’ attitude IS the attitude of many pet foods. It’s wrong and it’s problematic and pets are paying the price. If you’re going to “slap on a good label, come up with a slogan, and off you go” – get out of the pet food business.
Quote regarding Blue Buffalo the company (bold added)…
Blue Buffalo didn’t take off immediately. So Bishop hired a staff of in-store representatives to sidle up to customers overwhelmed by the profusion of natural brands and steer them toward the Buff. PetSmart (PETM), a national discount chain, went along with the strategy, in part because Blue Buffalo offered retailers relatively high margins.
My comment: Higher margins does lead one to wonder if more money was spent on selling the pet food than purchasing quality ingredients. There is a reason many pet foods don’t advertise…they don’t have the money to (money is spent on ‘food’ ingredients instead of ‘feed’ ingredients).
Its success drew the attention of Invus Group, a New York-based private equity firm that had made successful investments in such diverse brands as Weight Watchers (WTW) and Keebler cookies. In 2006, Invus cash allowed Bishop to launch Internet and television ads that further fueled Blue Buffalo’s growth. Invus now holds a controlling stake in the company.
No comment – just an FYI for consumers that an investment firm now owns controlling interest in Blue Buffalo.
Quote from UC Davis Veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Larsen…
“Whatever the brand,” says UC Davis’s Larsen, “consumers seem willing to pay more for pet food that’s natural and special, because, I think, it makes them feel good about themselves.”
My comment: Consumers pay more for a quality food because it makes the consumer feel good? How insulting. She must have lost her mind. Dr. Larsen, FYI – the ONLY reason consumers pay more for quality pet food is because it improves the health of their pet. I suggest you get out of the lab and talk to a few pet food consumers who pay more for a high quality food (be that raw, cooked, home prepared, kibble or can). Talk to their veterinarians too. You might learn a few things about the power of good food.
Quotes regarding Purina…
The company’s employees are offended by Blue Buffalo’s suggestion that they feed pets junk. “But we don’t pretend that our product is so good that we feed it to our families,” says Crimmins, the marketing chief.
My comment: Uh…Purina…are your pets not family? Ours are. Ok…Purina might be referencing the many Blue Buffalo’s advertisements alluding to human grade ingredients – but what about the many Purina labels and websites displaying images of edible ‘food’? Their product marketing alludes to the very same thing Blue Buffalo did – human food. They are right, they don’t “pretend” their products are human food – they outright claim it is via advertising.
Whether or not Blue Buffalo’s claims about avoiding ground-up chicken intestines and feet are false, there’s actually nothing wrong with such ingredients, says Kurt Venator, a Ph.D. vet employed by Purina. “Included in a balanced diet,” he adds, “byproducts are actually an excellent source of nutrition for pets”
My comment: Purina – if you are so proud to use “ground-up chicken intestines” in your pet foods – state that on your label…pictures too.
Quote for all of us…
The Lanham Act of 1946 prohibits “false or misleading” product advertising and allows for imposition of penalties of as much as three times the actual money damages attributed to wrongdoing.
Perhaps every consumer that has ever purchased a ‘pet food’ which really contained ‘pet feed’ ingredients should band together for the largest class action lawsuit in history. We have all been subjected to false and misleading pet food advertising haven’t we? Pet feed being advertised and sold to us as food. I think we all deserve three times our money back!
Purina and Blue Buffalo – it’s time to bring your evidence to the people. Both companies claim they are truthful with consumers – prove it. Show us the evidence!
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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