By Jessica Dye
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nestle Purina Petcare Co's [NESNP.UL] Beggin' dog treats may fool dogs into thinking they are mostly made of real bacon, but a federal lawsuit claims that humans may be misled too.
The proposed class action by Paul Kacocha of Dutchess County, New York, the owner of a West Highland terrier named Sophie, said he and other dog owners paid a premium for popular Beggin’ products, assuming they were made mostly of real bacon, when in fact the meat is only a miniscule portion of the pet treats. The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Kacocha said customers were duped by how the treats looked, smelled and resembled actual bacon – and the name "Beggin" even sounds like "bacon" - despite being made primarily of "filler" like wheat, corn, water and soy. The packaging prominently touts a picture of real bacon and proclaims the treats are “made with real bacon!” according to the lawsuit. Bacon is tenth on the list of ingredients, behind wheat, corn, sugar and water, among others, the lawsuit said.
One well-known Beggin' commercial that has aired on national television featured a dog jumping on his owner asking, "Where is it? Where’s the bacon?" That ad, the lawsuit said, is "an ironic, though unintended metaphor for this entire case."
The lawsuit seeks to represent all consumers who purchased the treats in New York state, and is asking for an unspecified amount of damages. It says Nestle Purina violated state consumer-protection laws against false and deceptive advertising.
Purina spokesman Keith Schopp said in a statement the company has always been transparent and accurate in its advertising, marketing and packaging. "The notion that anyone would actually think we're selling bacon is nonsense," he said. "Consumers get it, and dogs love it."
St. Louis-based Nestle Purina Petcare is a subsidiary of Nestle SA, and is the largest U.S. pet food company, according to the suit. The company sells a range of Beggin’ varieties, including Beggin’ Strips Bacon, Beggin’ Thick Cut Hickory Smoked Flavor and Beggin’ Collisions Bacon, Egg & Cheese.
The case is Kacocha v. Nestle Purina Petcare Company, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 15-5489.
(Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Jeffrey Benkoe)