The cannabidiol (CBD) pet product market is rapidly expanding, from new brands to innovative product delivery methods, and industry insiders are taking notice.

“The proliferation of hemp-based products is the biggest trend to hit the pet and human health category in years,” said Will Billings, CEO of Burlington, Vt.-based HempVet, which makes hemp-based nutraceuticals for pets. “The popularity and consumer focus on hemp/CBD has brought many new brands into the marketplace. Pet parents and retailers are offered new choices almost daily.”

The current COVID-19 pandemic has curbed sales of some pet product categories, but according to Tom LaForge, who leads market research at Boulder, Colo.-based Charlotte’s Web, which makes CBD products for both humans and dogs, it has actually helped with the company’s overall sales.

“As with every other category, any discussion today of trends in the CBD category has to start with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis,” LaForge said. “While there are challenges—such as consumers not being able to go out and shop in brick-and-mortar stores—there are actually positive signs that bode well for CBD.”

For example, 39 percent of people who use CBD themselves plan to use it more during the pandemic, LaForge said, pointing to research conducted in the later part of March by Brightfield Group.

“Our own sales trends here at Charlotte’s Web validate that statistic,” LaForge said. “And as far as the CBD for pet category, the trend line is even more promising. The industry as a whole was only $30 million at the end of 2018, but by the end of 2019, the category reached an incredible $320 million—more than a tenfold increase in just one year. And we’re seeing continued momentum in 2020, with the year expected to conclude with total pet CBD sales in excess of $560 million.”

New and Trending

The rate of CBD products coming to market continues to rise, as does the enthusiasm among the companies bringing them out.

Dean Robbins, co-owner of Bark Appeal, a manufacturer in San Clemente, Calif., said that he’s excited about his company’s entry into the CBD product category. Up until now, Bark Appeal focused on harnesses, collars and leashes.

“We wanted to put out an honest product that we stand behind,” Robbins said.

Bark Appeal’s new line of products includes P.E.T. Purely Ex-Tracted Premium Pet CBD Drops, P.E.T. Purely Ex-Tracted Premium CBD Cat Treats and P.E.T. Purely Ex-Tracted Premium CBD Pet Treats.

“Our hemp is grown in the USA, tested three times to ensure our high-quality standards, offering pets the advantage of the full-spectrum oil,” Robbins said.

Min S. Lee, co-founder and president of brand development of Honest Paws, a maker of CBD pet products in League City, Texas, said pet owners are interested in using CBD for specific purposes.

“We’ve really made efforts to focus our product line around specific use cases,” Lee said. “After polling our tens of thousands of customers, we had a very clear picture of why our customers love our products so much and for what purpose they use them for. As a result, our line is focused on four categories: calm, mobility, relief and wellness. Based on initial feedback from customers and retailers, we are very pleased to announce that our strategy is paying off.”

Products include On-the-Go Peanut Butter Pouches and Relief CBD Balm for Pets, among others.

The pouches are designed for customers who want to see how the product works, according to Lee.

“As a POS [point-of-sale]-type product, it is a very popular upsell, and most retailers are reporting that these customers will return after a few days seeking the larger jars,” Lee said.

Honest Paws’ Relief CBD Balm for Pets, a natural anti-inflammatory, is a very popular seasonal product, Lee said.

“Many pets get dry and cracked paws in the winter, while during the summer, dogs can damage and burn their paws from the hot pavement,” Lee said. “In addition, the balm has proven to be extremely effective for hot spots and general dryness of paws and snouts.”

In addition to its multiactive line of condition-specific soft chews for dogs, HempVet has developed formulations for cats, dogs and horses for a total of 11 new products available in a variety of delivery systems, Billings said.

The cat-specific line includes Calm Support, Joint Support and Immunity Support soft chews, which are CBD based. Other products include a Flea & Tick Spray with Infused Hemp Oil as well as topical gels for the skin and coat and muscles and joints. Both gels are hemp and CBD based.

LaForge reported success with Charlotte’s Web’s full-spectrum pet chews, which were launched in January. The chicken-flavored chews come in three formulas: Calming, Hip & Joint and Senior.

Charlotte’s Web ingestible pet products have earned the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) Quality Seal and U.S. Hemp Authority Certified Seal, LaForge noted.

Vetting Manufacturers

Seeing the Company Behind the Label

Retailers find it important to know who sits behind the product label sitting on their store shelves, so it comes as no surprise that some turn to local companies and/or do their due diligence in understanding what a company is all about.

“With so many companies jumping on the CBD [cannabidiol] bandwagon, it can be difficult to choose which brands to carry in the store,” said Parker Koehn, manager at The Healthy Pet, a retailer in Eugene, Ore. “We are fortunate here in Eugene to have many great local, organic hemp farmers and CBD producers. We like to build relationships with every company we carry, and ask for transparency in their agricultural practices and third-party testing.”

It also helps when retailers and associates try CBD products out themselves.

“I have five German shepherds, and I have used and continue to use all of our products on each of them for different purposes,” said Carla Torppey, manager at Living Pawsitively in Lafayette Township, N.J. “The owner, Jan, also has two large dogs, and she does the same. Seeing how the products work for your own pets, we believe, is the best way to choose which product will work best in different scenarios. It is also the best way to help customers with their pets.”

Instead of relying solely on what you are told about a company, look through the company’s lab reports to make sure you’re getting what the product is advertised to be, said Dean Robbins, co-owner of Bark Appeal, a San Clemente, Calif.-based pet accessories and CBD manufacturer. He also advised making sure the company stands behind its product.

Ask the who, what, where and how questions, said Will Billings, CEO of Burlington, Vt.-based HempVet, which makes hemp-based nutraceuticals for pets, giving the following as examples:

• Who are the people at the company, and what is their experience in the pet health profession?

• What are the scientific qualifications of the developer and the scientific rationale for the product?

• Where are the products made, and by whom? Do they have the appropriate certifications and testing in place?

• How is this company going to support the brand? Does it have the resources for long-term growth?

Retailers should also ask themselves if the manufacturer has realistic claims.

“Use your nose to sniff out what seems like flagrantly puffed up health claims,” said Tom LaForge, who leads market research at Charlotte’s Web, a CBD manufacturer in Boulder, Colo. “Companies who over promise health claims are magnets for the [U.S. Food & Drug Administration] FDA’s negative attention.”

Understanding the effectiveness of CBD products is also key in selecting a manufacturer, said Min S. Lee, co-founder and president of brand development of Honest Paws, a maker of CBD pet products in League City, Texas.

“Both retailers and consumers should try to learn what makes an effective CBD product first,” Lee said. “I always tell people, whether you go with Honest Paws or not, go with a company that uses full-spectrum CBD oil. Broad-spectrum and isolate CBD products aren’t going to be as effective, in my opinion.”

Assortment Optimization

Curating the Ideal Product Mix

Consumers love to have choices, so Dean Robbins, co-owner of Bark Appeal, a San Clemente, Calif.-based pet accessories and CBD manufacturer, suggests that retailers be diverse in their cannabidiol (CBD) product selection so that they can appeal to a wide range of customer needs.

Retailers, however, should also consider their own individuality and curate products based on that, said Min S. Lee, co-founder and president of brand development of Honest Paws, a maker of CBD pet products in League City, Texas.

“It really depends on the specific pet retailer’s business model,” Lee said. “Many larger stores want to offer as much variety as possible for their customers, while smaller stores take pride in curating the right products on their customers’ behalf. That said, I’m more of the belief that too many brands in the CBD category may be confusing because it is still a relatively new active ingredient. Finding one to three brands that span the range of customer needs and preferred price points would make the most sense.”

Living Pawsitively, a retailer in Lafayette Township, N.J., has done just this.

“We only have a single display shelf of CBD and hemp products,” said Carla Torppey, manager of Living Pawsitively. “Since we test the products ourselves, we choose the products we carry from each brand that we find has the most success. … We carry a few different brands of treats just for variety and allergy purposes, whereas we only carry one brand of oil. We also carry topical [products] as a third option, but again we limit it to only two different brands. We do this to make to the decision to use CBD and hemp products as easy as possible.”

Retail price should also be taken into consideration, said Will Billings, CEO of Burlington, Vt.-based HempVet, which makes hemp-based nutraceuticals for pets.

“The retail price is always an important factor as it is important to be aligned with a consumer’s willingness and ability to pay,” Billings said. “Oftentimes, we find that retail pricing is given greater attention than dealer profitability. We recommend a balanced approach, one that takes retail and dealer pricing into account along with dealer profitability and consumer satisfaction.”

Product format should also not be overlooked when curating CBD products, said Tom LaForge, who leads market research at Charlotte’s Web, a CBD manufacturer in Boulder, Colo.

“Tinctures can be given directly in the mouth, and chews are very popular too,” LaForge said. “And when it comes to skin conditions or localized aches and pains, a topical balm is best.”

The Healthy Pet, a retailer in Eugene, Ore., carries a variety of CBD product forms, including soothing balms, tinctures, oils, powders and treats.

“We offer a wide range of concentrations and flavors, so we have something for picky dogs and cats of every size,” said Parker Koehn, manager of The Healthy Pet. “We are working with a couple of different companies to produce a wider selection for cats, whom are often overlooked in the CBD industry.”

Whatever the assortment, in the end, the products should be of high quality, LaForge said.

“People expect pet specialty retailers to provide higher-quality products compared to some other places that maybe sell pet supplies along with thousands of other products,” LaForge said. “So, when developing the ideal CPG [consumer packaged goods] brand and product mix, retailers need to look for things like third-party testing, [and] companies that control their supply chains from seed to shelf with multiple quality checks along the way.”