Wellness vs. Blue Buffalo


Wellness vs Blue Buffalo

Wellness and Blue Buffalo are among the most popular names in the pet food industry. If you’ve been inside any large pet food store, then you’ve probably heard of these two brands.

In pet food lingo, both brands are considered premium pet food brands. In other words, these two brands are relatively better (more nourishing) than most value brands of pet food.

Although these two brands are relatively similar, Blue Buffalo is much more popular among pet owners. Blue Buffalo is also the relatively newer brand (founded in 2012). Wellness was launched five years prior in 1997 by the WellPet Company.

Blue Buffalo’s popularity can be attributed to its aggressive marketing campaigns and continuous stream of new products. In addition to traditional marketing channels, Blue Buffalo maintains a team of 1,500+ in-store representatives who educate/convince pet owners to choose Blue Buffalo.

Outside of popularity, there are significant differences between the two brands which aren’t initially apparent. We’ll attempt to highlight and discuss the significance of these differences using current data from our comprehensive pet food database.

Guaranteed Analysis Comparison: Blue Buffalo vs. Wellness

Pet food products sold in the United States must provide nutritional information commonly referred to as Guaranteed Analysis. This information provides guaranteed minimums (crude protein, crude fat) and maximums (crude fiber, moisture) for important macro-nutrients.

Note: The term “Crude” refers to the method of testing used to derive the percentages for protein, fat, and fiber.

Wellness Dog Food vs. Blue Buffalo Dog Food

Wellness Blue Buffalo
Crude Protein 31.85% 28.72% Dry Food
Crude Fat 15.68% 14.86% Dry Food
Crude Fiber 5.45% 6.97% Dry Food
Crude Protein 40.44% 38.49% Wet Food
Crude Fat 24.38% 24.36% Wet Food
Crude Fiber 5.58% 7.51% Wet Food

This table shows the average dry matter basis macro-nutrient percentages for each brand of dog food. Dry matter basis is simply a conversion method used to remove the influence of moisture in the reported percentage of protein, fat, and fiber.

It’s immediately apparent that Wellness dog food products typically provide more protein and less fiber.

To some extent, higher protein and lower fiber dog foods are more desirable options. Therefore, Wellness dog foods provide a more optimal nutritional breakdown. However, the difference between the two brands regarding protein and fiber are relatively minor.

Wellness Cat Food vs. Blue Buffalo Cat Food

Wellness Blue Buffalo
Crude Protein 41.71% 37.32% Dry Food
Crude Fat 17.01% 16.38% Dry Food
Crude Fiber 4.64% 6.42% Dry Food
Crude Protein 44.39% 45.36% Wet Food
Crude Fat 22.58% 24.69% Wet Food
Crude Fiber 5.80% 8.28% Wet Food

This table shows the average dry matter basis macro-nutrient percentages for each brand of cat food. As you can see, the differences in nutritional breakdown are very similar to the differences highlighted earlier for dog food products.

Wellness typically provides more protein, less fiber, and roughly the same amount of fat. For wet cat food, the difference in protein is fairly insignificant. However, for dry cat food, the difference in protein is more than 4%.

Cats are obligate carnivores and they must consume predominantly protein. Therefore, when feeding dry cat food, Wellness appears to be the relatively better choice judging solely from the table presented above.

Wellness Pet Food Ingredients vs. Blue Buffalo Pet Food Ingredients

Wellness and Blue Buffalo use only natural ingredients to make their products. More specifically, they do not use any artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors. Furthermore, both brands do not use any by-product meals or unnamed meat ingredients.

Although both brands manufacture their foods within the United States, they source ingredients from many different countries. The specific origin of ingredients is not publicly available. In fact, there is hardly any useful information regarding ingredient quality provided publicly by either brand.

There are several questionable ingredients used by both Wellness and Blue Buffalo which should be noted. Here are some controversial ingredients used by both brands: Garlic and Pea Protein.

  • Garlic is small quantities can be an acceptable ingredient, but is large quantities garlic is toxic to dogs and cats. Therefore, many pet owners choose to avoid all products which contain garlic.
  • Pea protein is an inexpensive plant-based protein source. It is often used to boost the reported minimum crude protein percentage without adding more meat to the recipe. Although pea protein is not a harmful ingredient, it is not a desirable substitute for animal-based protein.

Select Wellness products contain an ingredient called menadione sodium bisulfite complex (a synthetic version of vitamin K). Research suggests that there are numerous negative medical consequences associated with the consumption of this ingredient.

More specifically, menadione sodium bisulfite complex is potentially toxic to the kidneys, lungs, liver, and mucous membranes. According to some sources, prolonged/repeated exposure can cause target organ damage.

Wellness also uses brewer’s rice in some of its recipes. This ingredient is typically regarded as an inexpensive and low quality filler. It is the leftover fragment of rice kernel separated from the larger kernels of milled rice.

Blue Buffalo does not use menadione sodium bisulfite complex or brewer’s rice in any of its dog food or cat food recipes.

Compare Manufacturing Between Wellness & Blue Buffalo

Blue Buffalo does not produce any of its own pet food. They outsource the manufacturing process to their U.S. based manufacturing partners. The specific partners responsible for the physical manufacturing of products are not publicly disclosed on the Blue Buffalo website.

On the other hand, most Wellness products are manufactured within the company’s own manufacturing facility. The WellPet Company owns its own manufacturing facility located in Mishawaka, Indiana.

According to our research, Wellness canned pet foods are not produced inside the the WellPet Indiana facility. Instead, these canned food products are produced by Diamond Pet Foods.

Recently, the WellPet Company has expanded its manufacturing facility. This expansion will help Wellness outsource less of its production to manufacturing partners.

In general, we prefer brands that produce their own pet food products. Brands that own their own manufacturing facility can exercise greater control over the entire manufacturing process.

Co-packers typically produce products for dozens of different brands of pet food. Thousands of ingredients from different countries flow in-and-out of the co-packer’s facility. The large volume of ingredients (from different origins) could easily increase the likelihood of contamination.

As we’ve highlighted in our Blue Buffalo Recall History page, Blue Buffalo has experienced several recalls throughout its history. Certain Blue Buffalo recalls can be directly linked to the outsourcing of the manufacturing process.

The WellPet company has historically maintained an impressive track-record for safety throughout it’s history. However, the Wellness brand specifically has experienced several hiccups within the last decade.

Product Variety & Availability: Blue Buffalo vs. Wellness

Blue Buffalo and Wellness both offer a wide-variety of dog and cat food options. Blue Buffalo offers more roughly 400 different recipes, whereas Wellness offers nearly 300 different recipes.

Compared to other brands in the pet food industry, Wellness and Blue Buffalo offer significantly more variety for pet owners. Pet owners looking to provide their pets with protein/flavor variety cannot go wrong with either brand.

Each brand offers a complete line of dry food, canned/wet food, food toppers, dental products, and treats. Recently, Wellness has also launched a series of freeze-dried raw food options.

Finally, both brands are widely available across the United States. All major pet food retailers including Petco/PetSmart carry a wide selection of Wellness and Blue Buffalo pet food products. If you'd like to see a comprehensive price comparison across all retailers for both brands, try our pet food price comparison tool.

Price Comparison: Which Brand Provides More Value?

We’ve used our pet food price comparison tool to compute average price information for both Blue Buffalo and Wellness. These averages are computed by using up-to-date price data gathered from Petco, PetSmart, PetFlow, Amazon, and other major retailers.

Wellness Blue Buffalo Difference
Dry Dog Food $3.57 $2.55 $1.02
Wet Dog Food $7.62 $5.35 $2.27
Dry Cat Food $5.11 $3.33 $1.78
Wet Cat Food $7.71 $5.30 $2.41

This table shows the average price per pound for Wellness and Blue Buffalo pet food. The data shows that on average, Blue Buffalo is cheaper than Wellness by a significant amount.

If you’re trying to save money on pet food, or simply feeding a large or giant breed dog, Blue Buffalo is going to be a much more affordable option. However, the specific recipe you choose will have a significant impact on the price you pay.

Keep in mind that the numbers reported in the table are simply averages across all dry food and wet food recipes. It is possible that the price discrepancies may be reduced if we separate the data into more categories (grain free, raw food, high-protein, limited ingredient, etc).

Lawsuits, Controversies and Final Thoughts

In 2014, Purina sued Blue Buffalo for false advertising. Purina claimed that Blue Buffalo was using poultry by-products without disclosing the ingredient to consumers.

Blue Buffalo later confirmed that Purina was indeed correct. The company said that they were unintentionally using poultry by-products as a result of mislabeling by their ingredient supplier.

This lawsuit with Purina was one of many to question the advertising claims made by Blue Buffalo. Since the Purina lawsuit, consumers have become increasingly skeptical about Blue Buffalo’s product/ingredient quality.

In comparison, Wellness has not been involved in any major lawsuits which question the brand’s integrity. For consumers willing to forgo the cost savings of feeding Blue Buffalo, Wellness is an excellent alternative.

Overall, the two brands are more similar than they are different. Choosing one brand over the other should not have any major impact on your dog or cats health.

Wellness seems to offer more protein and lack the controversies which surround Blue Buffalo. In addition, Wellness seems to have less product safety issues relative to Blue Buffalo.

However, in many cases, Wellness is more expensive. For owners of large and giant breed dogs, the cost difference may be significant. Therefore, the correct brand for your pet will depend on your budget and your confidence in the individual brand's integrity.