How Pet Supply Retailers Can Navigate the Popular CBD Category

The growth within the cannabidiol (CBD) pet product segment is undeniable. Pet owners are seeking it, retailers are reporting increased sales, and manufacturers in the category are proliferating at a rapid rate.

Yet the "dramatic influx" of CBD products in the pet market has led to saturation issues for retailers, said Min S. Lee, co-founder and president of brand development at Honest Paws, a League City, Texas-based manufacturer of CBD pet products. 

"As a result, many retailers are faced with the challenge of [sorting through] all the noise to identify who are leading, reputable brands that they should be carrying," Lee said. "That said, the demand has increased dramatically, and we’ve been very fortunate to be recognized as a leader in the space. But as they say in the superhero movies, ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ As a result, Honest Paws will continue to focus on educating consumers while pushing the rest of our industry to adopt only the highest standards of quality."

Julianna Carella, founder and CEO of Treatibles, a Petaluma, Calif.-based manufacturer of broad-spectrum CBD oil chews, dropper bottles and capsules for pets, expressed similar sentiments.

"The downside to the ‘CBD boom’ is that there are a number of unscrupulous companies out there producing inferior products for both pets and people," Carella said. "The onus falls on those of us devoted to quality, consistency and compliance to keep educating pet parents, retailers and the media."

Pet owners are drawn to these products for the advertised treatments of anxiety, pain, and joint and mobility issues, according to industry insiders. CBD is also a great turbo boost for the immune system, a natural anti-inflammatory and a neuroprotectant that has anti-aging properties, said Shelby Flinn, education specialist for Pet Releaf, a Littleton, Colo.-based manufacturer of pet CBD oils, capsules and chews. 

When it comes to administering CBD products, oral application seems to be the preferred method, Lee said.

"It is probably the most efficient delivery method for CBD to enter an animal’s endocannabinoid system," Lee added.

As of press time, Honest Paws planned to launch its line of Honest Paws Functional Oils at Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., in February.

"Like our existing bites and chews, our CBD oils will now be offered in a way to address specific-use cases," Lee said. "We [are launching] a Relief Oil, Calm Oil, Mobility Oil as well as a general Wellness Oil. Each oil has specific terpene profiles as well as effective ingredients, such as chamomile or turmeric, used to target and treat specific needs of the pet."  

Honest Paws also planned to launch Relief CBD Balm, which is made with full-spectrum oil, natural botanical ingredients and essential oils, Lee said. 

"This is a topical product used as a natural antibiotic to relieve skin irritations, rashes, cuts and dry, itchy skin," Lee said. "It’s also a great way to protect and soothe paws and snouts."

Prior to these releases, Honest Paws launched CBD-infused Peanut Butter On-The-Go Pouches, which have been a hit with retailers, according to Lee.

Flinn noted that pet owners typically choose CBD product formats based on their pet’s needs and preferences.

"The reason we offer so many different forms is because every pet’s needs are unique," Flinn said. "We have some products that are used for general maintenance and higher potencies for those experiencing something more severe. Not every pet loves the taste of hemp oil, so we also offer the capsules and liposomes, which can be administered directly on food. If a pet is food driven, our Edibites might make more sense.

Skin allergy or rash? The topical will help better target that ailment externally with penetrative properties."

The CBD pet product category isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. In fact, insiders expect that sales will only continue to climb in the coming years. However, the market, most likely, will not look the same.

"If I had to guess, there will only be three or four brands leading the space and owning a majority of the market share," Lee said. "All other brands will most likely have missed the opportunity to leverage economies of scale to weather the hurdles that come with a maturing market.

Of the remaining three or four brands mentioned, most will have been acquired by a larger company."

Flinn said that she imagines the industry continuing to grow to a point where too much saturation will require a level of regulation, something she expects to evolve in the coming year.

"The U.S. Hemp Authority is a big step in the right direction, and we will continue to encourage pet CBD companies to get the certifications needed to ensure their products are safe and effective," Flinn said, referring to the U.S. Hemp Authority Certification Program, which, on its website, bills itself as the hemp industry’s initiative "to provide high standards, best practices and self-regulation, giving confidence to consumers and law enforcement that hemp products are safe, and legal." 

"While regulation is a scary thought for some, the lack of it is even scarier," Flinn added.


Discussing CBD with Staff and Consumers

Let’s face it. Pet owners get a lot of information—much of it misinformation—from various internet sources as well as family and friends. Enter pet retailers.

"Retailers are the ideal educators for this category because they are so well positioned," said Min S. Lee, co-founder and president of brand development at Honest Paws, a League City, Texas-based manufacturer of CBD pet products. "As a result, we developed online courses, Honest Paws Academy, as a way to educate our new and existing retailers so that they are informed enough to recommend the right CBD [cannabidiol] products for each customer that walks into their store."

Littleton, Colo.-based pet CBD manufacturer Pet Releaf and Treatibles, a Petaluma, Calif.-based manufacturer of broad-spectrum CBD pet products, also offer online courses. Depending on the company, courses can include everything from information on a particular brand to the history of CBD, research on such products, current studies and associated legal issues, among other related topics.

"Retailers can also encourage the brands they carry to provide educational collateral, like brochures," said Julianna Carella, founder and CEO of Treatibles. "In-store product demonstrations are an excellent way for customers to meet company reps and have questions answered. Social media can be effective for sharing product success stories from customers."

Aquila Brown, owner of The Yuppy Puppy, which has two locations in Spokane, Wash., said face-to-face education and personal experience are the best selling methods.

"We have hosted in-store classes on CBD, which were super helpful," Brown said. "We teamed up with CBD companies, Super Snouts and Colorado Hemp Honey, to provide samples, and we offered coupons to those who attended the free class."

Christine McCoy, owner of The Natural Pet Enrichment Center, a pet store in North Royalton, Ohio, also said in-person conversations are the best way to help consumers understand what CBD is and how it can help their pets.

"Having point-of-sales [materials] for them to refer to when they get home is also very helpful," McCoy said. "Having all your staff members well educated on CBD is necessary to make your customers have the right information when they leave your store. CBD has so many benefits when used properly, but consumers get a lot of wrong information about it, and you need to take the time to educate them."


Calling Attention to CBD

Some pet owners might walk into a pet supply store already in search of cannabidiol (CBD) products, while others may not have considered—or even heard of—such products until they see them on the shelf. Either way, prominent and easily accessible displays are essential, according to industry insiders.

"We have a dedicated area for supplements, with CBD products on the top shelf," said Christine McCoy, owner of The Natural Pet Enrichment Center, a pet store in North Royalton, Ohio. "This area is located close to the registers since many customers bring up [health concerns there]. It can start a conversation on how [their pets] can benefit from [CBD products]."  

In addition, The Natural Pet Enrichment Center often has an area on its center table featuring CBD products during high-stress times of the year, McCoy said. McCoy also holds education days to discuss the benefits of CBD and how it can help pets.

Aquila Brown, owner of The Yuppy Puppy, which has two locations in Spokane, Wash., also sees registers as a good vantage point.

"We have a counter display from Super Snouts Hemp Co. right between both registers, with fliers next to it," Brown said.

"We don’t advertise our CBD products online, and we don’t make a big deal about it, but we do talk about it in-store a lot," Brown said.

"After our class that we offered in October, we got a huge influx of new people who came in looking for CBD because they’d heard about it from their friends or family."