Cannabidiol (CBD) products make up a rapidly expanding category that is enjoying exponential growth as consumers eagerly try out the newest natural alternatives for treating pet ailments.
By Sandy Chebat
Published: 2019.06.03 09:00 AM
Cannabidiol (CBD) is exploding in the pet category, and industry insiders see no signs of it slowing down. What started with just a few products containing CBD as an ingredient has rapidly expanded to include everything from treats to topicals to bedding.
“Since CBD is the shiny new category, companies are coming to market with just about any product now containing CBD,” said Shelby Bank, marketing manager for Pet Releaf in Littleton, Colo.
Caitlin Jones, merchandise buyer and assistant manager for Nooga Paws in Chattanooga, Tenn., reported seeing more CBD treats when the category was new, but said that now more CBD oils are available.
At Riley’s Natural Pet Supply in Littleton, Colo., the most popular CBD delivery methods that customers seek are a liquid tincture format, followed by a CBD-infused treat, said owner Michele Hanson-Pahan.
While product formats have expanded, insiders stressed that for pet specialty retailers to truly understand this emerging category, doing research as well as understanding terminology and function are key. For example, Rob Kovler, founder of New Rochelle, N.Y.-based Animal Nutritional Products, which makes liquids, tinctures and treats, reported that many people believe that hemp extract comes from a marijuana plant and can get their animals high. Though similar in many ways, hemp extract “comes from the hemp plant and has a different molecular structure,” he explained.
It can also be beneficial for retailers to understand how and why CBD products work. Experts said that CBD, and the other beneficial cannabinoids found in hemp, works with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which all humans and animals have. The ECS’s job is to promote homeostasis, making sure the body’s major systems work synergistically. If they don’t, phytocannabinoids (natural plant cannabinoids) are able to bind to the ECS’s receptors to help create calm, balance and ease, and allow the body to self-heal, according to insiders.
As word spreads about the benefits of cannabinoids, sales of CBD products continue to rise, with market-growth projections reaching the millions and even the billions, insiders reported. Ian Quinn, CEO and founder of Phyto Animal Health in San Diego, said that in just five years he has seen CBD go from a taboo topic to a known market, “with many economic experts calling it the ‘Green Rush.’”
With things moving so quickly, Bank said, “It’s important for retailers and consumers to be discerning, as just because something contains CBD, does not mean that it’s suddenly better for your pet companion.”
As seen in other pet product categories, manufacturer transparency is in high demand from pet specialty retailers and consumers alike.
“Consumers are increasingly getting more knowledgeable about CBD, and we foresee a greater desire for transparency in the CBD pet products they purchase,” said Kat Donatello, founder of Austin and Kat in Seattle. “[This increased consumer awareness is] pushing CBD pet companies to source higher-quality hemp and formulate recipes that use less preservatives and fillers.”
Dog owners at Hawthorne Country Store, which has two stores in California, want “full-spectrum products that are tested and proven [to have] high absorption rates, little to no THC and as natural a production process as possible,” said Heather Thelen, partner.
Part of consumers’ desire for transparency is a continued preference for local sourcing. While not all retailers will be able to offer a local option to their customers, Riley’s Natural Pet Supply takes advantage of its proximity to Colorado, where more than half of the country’s 2017 hemp production occurred, according to Hemp Industry Daily.
“Our store chooses to sell only Colorado-based, organic products,” Hanson-Pahan said. “I have walked all our manufacturers’ Colorado organic fields, seen the manufacturing facilities and have a strong relationship with the company owners.”
Jones also leans toward local offerings. Along with Pet Releaf, Nooga Paws sells two brands of CBD oils that are manufactured in Chattanooga.
Notable New Offerings
There is no shortage of cannabidiol (CBD) products for dogs.
“CBD products are flooding the pet and human marketplace,” said Michele Hanson-Pahan, owner of Riley’s Natural Pet Supply in Littleton, Colo. “Each day, we will have calls or emails to consider selling the caller’s product.”
The newest products for dogs cover several subcategories in terms of their delivery method.
At Global Pet Expo in March, Littleton, Colo.-based Pet Releaf released two products: Keith Haring Edibites and Boom Bars. The Edibite supplements are dedicated to Keith Haring, a popular American artist of the 1980s, and each purchase benefits rescue animals, the company stated. Boom Bars incorporate the company’s U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic hemp protein flour from its Colorado hemp farm and comes in three varieties: Energize, Recovery and Longevity.
Treatibles in Petaluma, Calif., launched Soft Chews for Dogs in November 2018. They were created specifically for pets that prefer a softer consistency and for senior dogs that struggle with hard chews, according to the company.
Seattle-based Austin and Kat introduced 10-milligram CBD+ Extra Strength Wellness Dog Biscuits this year. Infused with broad-spectrum hemp-derived CBD, the gluten-free biscuits are vegan and preservative free, and they are formulated for larger dogs, according to the manufacturer.
“High-potency oil products are, by far, the best-sellers,” said Heather Thelen, partner at Hawthorne Country Store, which has two stores in California. “People feel like they are getting more for their money.”
In November 2018, Treatibles introduced Ready Packs for Dogs, which contain 10 single-serving, pre-measured blister packs of organic, full-spectrum hemp oil from the manufacturer’s organic hemp farm in South Carolina.
Animal Nutritional Products released PhytoMAXX Plus, a hemp extract liquid for dogs and cats, in December 2018. Formulated to work on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) of all animals, this proprietary product contains 250 milligrams of hemp extract per bottle and can be administered directly into a pet’s mouth or on the food, or given with a treat, the company said.
Austin and Kat launched CBD Extra Strength Organic Oils this year in 600-milligram, 1,200-milligram and 2,400-milligram varieties. Infused with broad-spectrum, naturally occurring CBD oil and USDA-certified organic coconut oil, the products’ droppers feature precise measurement to allow for drops to be placed under the tongue or on food or a treat, the company stated.
Phyto Animal Health recently introduced Skin Vitality CBD topical for use on itchy hot spots and dermatitis, and a 3G Oral Concentrate paste formulated to be rubbed into the dog’s gumline for higher absorption into the bloodstream.
In April, Treatibles introduced a topical cream for dogs that contains dermal-penetrating ingredients for maximum absorption. The organic, full-spectrum hemp oil promotes a normal inflammatory response, helps reduce discomfort, and supports a strong immune system for use in managing hot spots, cuts, burns, scrapes and blemishes, according to the manufacturer.
Crucial Information for Discerning Retailers
With cannabidiol (CBD) products trending in pet retail stores nationwide, and the marketplace widening to accommodate even more product, it can be hard for pet owners to navigate the category.
“Many products are inferior products from ‘hemp hustlers,’ and the consumer is not or does not know how to thoroughly research these products,” said Denise Strong, owner of Pawz On Main in Cottonwood, Ariz.
Therefore, retailers must “know how to evaluate the quality, safety and efficacy of the CBD products they sell,” said Ian Quinn, CEO and founder of Phyto Animal Health in San Diego.
For retailers looking to thoroughly vet CBD brands, industry insiders recommended considering the following questions when comparing brands or adding a new brand to their lineup:
• Where is the hemp grown?
• What extraction method is used?
• Is the company using CBD isolate or full-spectrum hemp oil?
• How much CBD is contained in the product(s)?
• Does the company offer customer service via telephone and email?
• Is the company a National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) member, and are they fully compliant with their packaging and marketing?
In addition to asking these questions, insiders recommended requesting proof of organic certification and of third-party testing.
“Retailers must know how to ask for certificates of analysis (COAs) for every product and must know how to read it,” Quinn said, adding that not all COAs are created equal. “Make sure the COA has a full lab analysis, including testing for cannabinoids and terpene concentrations, pesticides, fertilizers, heavy metals like lead, and bacteria like E. coli and salmonella.”
While retail staff can pass all of this information along to dog owners, some recommended sticking with the critical points.
“The must-know information we share as a store is the sourcing of the hemp, the contraindications—when you would not use CBDs—and the adverse effect of purchasing some dispensary products,” said Michele Hanson-Pahan, owner of Riley’s Natural Pet Supply in Littleton, Colo.
Heather Thelen, partner at Hawthorne Country Store, which has two stores in California, said she keeps it extra simple.
“We are looking for clean, consistent, quality products that deliver on the dollar we invest with efficacy for our animal community,” she said.
Improve CBD Product Sales with Strategic Displays
Managing merchandising well can significantly affect sales, especially for a relatively new and potentially confusing product such as cannabidiol (CBD) for pets. Manufacturers and specialty retailers provided these three tips for stocking CBD products to sell:
1. At Checkout
Keeping pet CBD products at or near the checkout registers was a popular recommendation.
“We always recommend placing our pet CBD products at the register counter,” said Shelby Bank, marketing manager for Pet Releaf in Littleton, Colo. “Since CBD is so new and confusing, we believe that it is a great conversation starter and a way that retailers can provide knowledge on our products for those customers who are looking to purchase CBD products for their pets.”
At Pawz On Main in Cottonwood, Ariz., CBD products for dogs are housed in a freestanding glass display case prominently located next to the checkout area. In addition, owner Denise Strong said she keeps empty display bottles at checkout for use when explaining the products to customers.
2. By Category
Insiders said to stock CBD products with their counterparts. For example, Caitlin Jones, merchandise buyer and assistant manager at Nooga Paws in Chattanooga, Tenn., said the store puts its CBD products in the supplement aisle and a few bags of CBD treats in the treat section.
Jodi Ziskin, director of communications for Treatibles in Petaluma, Calif., agreed with this strategy, adding one caution.
“CBD products should not be featured in the food section of retail stores, to avoid misclassification by regulators that can pull noncompliant products,” she said.
3. With Signage
Successful displays do not stop with product placement, insiders said. Signage and marketing materials help bring attention to the products and educate consumers.
“We have individual wooden racks with signage, and shelves full of the products, with ready-to-take brochures,” said Michele Hanson-Pahan, owner of Riley’s Natural Pet Supply in Littleton, Colo. “We have posters and clings on the door, and windows to advertise upon entering or walking by the store.”
Ian Quinn, CEO and founder of Phyto Animal Health in San Diego, also emphasized the importance of providing marketing materials to help educate pet owners and assist with the sales process.
“Using a window decal along with a ceiling or pop-up banner inside the store helps to welcome pet owners looking for CBD,” he said. “Make it easy for them to see it from the outside in.”