The history of cannabidiol (CBD) is long and diverse. The versatile cannabis plant has served as both food and textile; however, its medicinal properties are storied and thread throughout history. Today’s consumers are looking to those health benefits not only for themselves, but also for their pets.
"Cannabis can be traced back at least 12,000 years, but has been stigmatized as an illicit substance," said Denise Strong, co-owner of Pawz On Main in Cottonwood, Ariz. "It’s about time that CBD has become available for consumer use."
As more pet owners utilize CBD products for their pets and witness the impact, word-of-mouth referrals have contributed to substantial market growth, said Steve Smith, president and co-founder of Pet Releaf in Littleton, Colo.
"The increase in the number of medical marijuana states has resulted in more coverage and greater awareness as to the medicinal benefits cannabis offers, without the side effects carried by most traditional pharmaceuticals," Smith said.
Heidi Hill, founder of Holistic Hound in Berkeley, Calif., has also noticed how word-of-mouth is impacting the category.
"We believe pet people have a greater propensity and desire to share information amongst themselves than many other segments of the population, and so word has been spreading rapidly, and organically, about the efficacy of these products," Hill said. Quality CBD products from reputable companies are relieving inflammation and pain from arthritis and other joint issues, boosting the immune system overall, helping to fight cancer, and improving skin, coat and allergy issues, gastrointestinal tract issues, chronic pain, epilepsy and more, according to Strong.
Brad Solomon, partner at Prana Pets in Delray Beach, Fla., noted that CBD is most often requested for pets experiencing seizures, followed by joint issues in older dogs.
"We hear about people who are carrying their dog up the stairs or lifting them onto the couch, and they purchase CBD to improve the quality of life for their elderly dogs," Solomon said. "It is also being purchased for cats and other pets."
In addition to these qualities, phytocannabinoids are recognized in helping pets with general and separation anxiety, and for end-of-life comfort, said Julianna Carella, CEO and founder of Treatibles in Oakland, Calif.
"Phytocannabinoids are very effective in bringing calm and balance to pets suffering from myriad conditions," Carella said. "As pet parents search for a natural approach to the health and wellness of their pets, cannabidiol has become a very attractive remedy."
Because all animals have an endocannabinoid system that assists in maintaining the physiological, neurological and immunological systems of the body, phytocannabinoids, which occur naturally in the cannabis plant, have many applications, according to Carella.
Dogs are especially responsive to phytocannabinoids as they have the highest concentration of cannabinoid receptors in their brains and bodies compared to other animals, including humans, she added.
"If there is a deficiency of endocannabinoid production, the system’s multiple receptors will utilize the addition of phytocannabinoids to help create balance and provide support for relaxing, repairing or restoring," Carella said.
"CBD, when produced correctly and in full-spectrum [nonisolate] form, is one of the most beneficial natural compounds on earth," Smith said. "By activating the endocannabinoid system, or ECS, in the body of a dog or cat, a full-spectrum CBD oil is an extremely potent anti-inflammatory, and turbo-boost to the immune system."
Retailers that have added CBD to their product mix reported seeing strong sales.
"CBD hemp oils, along with CBD edible treats, make up 25 percent of the monthly sales at Pawz On Main," Strong said. "Dog food is right behind the hemp sales."
At Pacific Pets in Hillsboro, Ore., co-manager Ben Schmid said that after several months of offering CBD products, increased consumer awareness has led to proliferating sales.
"It’s definitely at the top every month," Schmid said. "The greatest thing about CBD is that it’s naturally occurring in our bodies already, so there are no side effects and you won’t see an overdose as long as there’s no THC."
Having recently added CBD oil and treats to the product mix, Julie Paez, co-owner of The Big Bad Woof in Washington, D.C., reported strong consumer interest and consistent sales.
"I reorder product every week," Paez said. "The liquid is expensive, so it’s not a fast-moving item, but it’s steady, and we are also shipping it all over the place."
As pet owners recognize its health promoting possibilities, cannabidiol (CBD) oil has become less of an alternative and more of an accepted way to provide relief for pets in distress, said Heidi L. Nevala, president and founder of Petabis Organics in Colorado Springs, Colo.
In answer, manufacturers are considering convenience when creating new formulations.
Pet Releaf recently introduced a CBD capsule 10-pack. The product is particularly popular with first-time purchasers looking for solutions to problems such as travel anxiety, post-surgery recovery and short-term illness or injury, said Steve Smith, president and co-founder of the Littleton, Colo.-based company.
"Previously, if a customer wanted to purchase our certified USDA organic CBD hemp oil in capsule form, they had to buy our 30-capsule bottle," Smith said. "This new 10-pack offers a more affordable way to try our capsules without purchasing an entire bottle."
Pet Releaf has also added two full-spectrum CBD hemp oil potencies: Hemp Oil 700 and Hemp Oil 1700.
"These new additions allow us to meet the needs of more dogs as pet parents endeavor to find the best CBD product for their pet," Smith said.
In conjunction with these new offerings, Pet Releaf has been able to lower prices across the entire line, he said.
"We are able to do this without sacrificing quality due to a phenomenal harvest with our specialized strain, PR-33," Smith said. "This is exactly why we’ve always controlled our entire manufacturing process, from seed to sale, and from plant to pet."
Prana Pets has unveiled three CBD formulas that will offer seizure support, cancer support, and joint and muscle support, said Brad Solomon, partner with the Delray Beach, Fla.-based company.
"We previously offered a 13-product line, but only one was actually CBD—the other 12 treated different conditions," Solomon said. "Basically, customers would purchase the CBD and, for instance, the seizure support formulation, and use them together, so we created CBD formulas with the herbs that will help pets with these specific conditions."
For example, the company’s cancer support formulation includes alfalfa, ashwagandha, ginseng, echinacea and milk thistle.
"We know that CBD is effective and feel that when combined with these other products, will be easier to administer than using two separate items," he said.
Julianna Carella, CEO and founder of Treatibles in Oakland, Calif., said the company has introduced a line of grain-free, phytocannnabinoid-rich chews in four flavors, including Pumpkin, Blueberry and a first-time meat offering of Turkey. Additionally, Tater’s Sweet Potato Tots is a flavor named for Tater Tot, a pit bull rescued at Villalobos Rescue Center in New Orleans. One dollar of every purchase is pledged to the veterinary care of the dogs at this rescue.
"We also just introduced a new dropper bottle formula with MCT [medium-chain triglycerides] coconut oil as the carrier oil," Carella said.
Petabis Organics in Colorado Springs, Colo., has expanded its USDA organic CBD line with two products: Topical Salve and On The Go Snackers for dogs.
A patented water vapor extraction process is utilized to produce the topical salve, activated by MCT coconut oil and organic beeswax, said Heidi L. Nevala, president and founder of Petabis Organics. The human-grade salve can be used by all mammals and offers a consistently concentrated CBD topical to help deliver potential heightened therapeutic results, she said.
"Our full-spectrum whole-flower salve may help reduce stress and anxiety, provide pain relief for aching joints and muscles, help address skin irritations related to bug bites, hot spots and wounds, ease dry, itchy, flaking skin, and promote wound healing," Nevala said.
On The Go Snackers for dogs are packaged in a convenient 2-ounce travel size containing 15 snack pieces, each infused with 1.5 milligrams of CBD oil, as well as adaptogen superfruits and herbs. The product is available in three varieties: calming, immune, and joint and active body support.
In addition to its 3-milligram and 7.5-milligram pasture-raised chicken treats and CBD oils, Holistic Hound in Berkley, Calif., recently launched a grass-fed lamb liver treat, a 250-milligram CBD & Chaga mushroom tincture and its Mighty Mojo Mushroom powder, said founder Heidi Hill.
Knowledge is the cornerstone to cannabidiol (CBD) promotion and sales, according to pet specialty manufacturers and retailers.
"In the retail space, we understand that explaining the benefits of hemp-derived phytocannabinoid pet products to customers often inspires more questions," said Julianna Carella, CEO and founder of Treatibles in Oakland, Calif.
The ability to answer these inquiries can be the difference between closing a sale or having a customer walk away, she added.
"If you don’t know your product, you won’t sell it," said Denise Strong, co-owner of Pawz On Main in Cottonwood, Ariz. "When a consumer steps into a brick-and-mortar store, they expect more than a generic description of an item that can be found online."
This proficiency includes a strong grasp of the workings of CBD, sourcing and, most important, first-hand usage experience, Strong added.
"I personally spent months researching CBD products and the companies that distribute them before making the decision to carry only CBD products by Pet Releaf," she said.
Ben Schmid, co-manager at Pacific Pets in Hillsboro, Ore., agreed that research is essential.
"Pacific Pets is a health food store for dogs and cats, and we try to be on top of things in order to provide the healthiest products possible," he said. "That includes a lot of independent research."
Julie Paez, co-owner of The Big Bad Woof in Washington, D.C., said that manufacturer-offered online workshops are helpful training tools.
"We carry Pet Releaf and have had our staff take those seminars," she said.
Education is by far the most important aspect to marketing CBD products, said Steve Smith, president and co-founder of Pet Releaf in Littleton, Colo.
"Because the CBD world is so new and unregulated, there are a lot of incorrect claims as well as dangerous processes being used by some companies within the space," Smith said. "We take our responsibility to educate retailers with the most accurate information extremely seriously."
With the tremendous growth in product offerings, retailers should note that not all CBD products are created equal, agreed Heidi L. Nevala, president and founder of Petabis Organics in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"This is an important distinction because, as more pet parents consider CBD, they need to do their research and work with a company providing the highest verifiable quality products, offering transparency from growing, harvesting, processing and manufacturing, and providing third-party independent testing, as well as monitoring a pet’s reactions to any newly introduced digestible product," Nevala said.
Brad Solomon, partner at Prana Pets in Delray Beach, Fla., noted that sitting down with retailers and staff for training purposes offers a chance to share personal experiences.
"A lot of information and content is also on our website and in our blog," Solomon added.
Treatibles offers weekly online PowerPoint training sessions with product information, answers to commonly asked questions and access to research studies, Carella said.
Merchandising cannabidiol (CBD) within a brick-and-mortar store is straightforward as shoppers are more inclined to make unplanned purchases at physical stores compared with online sites, said Denise Strong, co-owner of Pawz On Main in Cottonwood, Ariz.
"My CBD sales marketing begins just outside the front door with strategic positioning of A-frame signage advertising CBD products," Strong said.
The eye-catching display feeds curiosity, drawing consumers inside to request more information, Strong added. Once shoppers are inside, a complete display of CBD products, along with informational brochures at the checkout counter, combined with education, are key merchandising tools.
"I also advertise my CBD products in three local newspapers, which brings in new customers," she said.
Offering a limited number of brands that the retailer has taken the time to study will aid the selling process and bolster confidence in first-time consumers, said Steve Smith, president and co-founder of Pet Releaf in Littleton, Colo.
"We find that retailers who follow this model are, by far, more successful," he said. "CBD is not like kibble, where personal preference is dictated by flavors; instead, it all comes down to manufacturing and what brands are truly the safest and most effective option."
When merchandising CBD, manufacturers agree that product placement is another important component to a favorable sales outcome. For instance, featuring edibles in the treat section might not highlight the health benefits.
"It is important to feature all CBD products in the supplement section of the store," said Julianna Carella, CEO and founder of Treatibles in Oakland, Calif.
Heidi Hill, founder of Holistic Hound in Berkley, Calif., said there is no better way than sampling to start a dialogue about CBD products.
"This should be accompanied by brochures and signage about the benefits of CBD and, in our case, medicinal mushrooms," Hill said.