In July 2019, Blue Buffalo pet food distributors in Mexico announced to their customers that the brand was no longer distributed in the country.
If one browses online, there are still some remaining products available on a few local e-commerce sites. But why is the brand no longer being distributed to brick-and-mortar stores? Since its arrival in Mexico in 2015, Blue Buffalo never took decisive steps to firmly position itself and to grasp a sizable consumer niche in the local market.
Initially, the label was available only at few of the major cities in the specialty channel and at numerous veterinary clinics. Since then, the company has gained some reputation, yet it never grew further from its initial position.
The reason for Blue’s departure was not the tough competition in the superpremium pet food environment. The brand had gained some consumer loyalty, as more pet owners in Mexico were openly accepting grain-free products.
Yet Blue always had poor promotion and provided very little product information to its client retailers. Moreover, the brand’s office in Mexico was shadowy; no emails or other contact information were publicly available.
We talked to hundreds of veterinarians across the country to understand their preferences in terms of premium products. Even though Blue was available at numerous veterinary shops, veterinarians were unable to connect with the brand and get their clients to buy the product. Usually, they had some knowledge of the product but did very little to sell it. Statistically speaking, we never heard a veterinarian recommending this brand.
Thus, Blue sales were low throughout the period it was in the country; it was common to see Blue products gathering dust on pet food shelves and bearing perpetual discounts. Even with the initial support of Petco Mexico, the brand was likely among the lowest selling products in the superpremium segment.
Blue consumers in Mexico were indeed loyal to the brand as they appreciated the benefits of the product. However, it was a small niche of shoppers that never grew.
Blue Buffalo’s market exit is a good example for the local pet food industry and, particularly, for foreign companies wanting to enter the Mexican market. For a premium pet food brand to succeed, there should be a liaison between a product and its potential consumers, regardless of the reputation a pet food brand holds in other markets.
Pet food players are therefore required to undertake various activities to enhance connection with consumers and provide information on the benefits that the new product has to offer to pets.
Iván Franco is the founder of Triplethree International and has collaborated on hundreds of research projects for several consumer goods industries. He was granted the Global Consultant of the Year award by Euromonitor International and authored the book 17 Market Strategies for Growth (in Spanish).
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