As the legalization of marijuana grows and spreads across North America, another side product of hemp is rising in popularity among humans and their pets alike: CBD pet products.
There's been a lot of buzz over this product in current years at trade shows, and especially at the most recent Global Pet Expo. At the show, we saw so many CBD pet products that even larger and more well-known brands are exploring the world of CBD treats.
Unlike other pet product trends, however, this one comes with baggage in the form of controversy. Although CBD has been around for thousands of years, its association with hemp and marijuana has given it a bad name. With this, we've noticed that pet specialty retailers are nervous about stocking it on the shelves. After all, you want to be known as a pet store, not a weed dispensary, right?
Let's take a look at a basic overview of CBD products and ways to overcome the stereotypes associated with them.
What is CBD?
To answer this question, let's start with what CBD is not: It is not pot, marijuana, or a way to get your dog high.
Rather, CBD is a form of hemp. While it comes from the same plant as marijuana, it contains virtually none of the intoxicating effect in marijuana. That's because there's next-to-no THC in CBD.
Dogs Naturally Magazine explains it well:
The two main types of cannabinoids are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBDs are therapeutic cannabinoids, while THC is the cannabinoid that makes you high. Marijuana’s THC content is usually between 10 and 15 percent; but hemp must have a THC content of 0.3 percent or less.
In fact, there is so little THC in CBD that it's impossible to get high. Most importantly, CBD is 100% legal - both statewide and nationwide.
Is CBD Safe for Pets?
CBD is not only safe for pets, but it's anecdotally proven to be good for them, too! According to Denise Strong, co-owner of Pawz On Main in Cottonwood, Ariz. via Pet Product News:
"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."
Although it hasn't been scientifically proven to cure anything, there has been a very little amount of reported side effects to using CBD oil in both pets and humans. In fact, a 1986 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience has found that what little side effects it may produce are very minor, and include things like dry mouth, sedation, and lightheadedness.
So, how does it work in pets? According to Medical Marijuana, Inc.:
By interacting with with cannabinoid receptors found in the central nervous system and immune system, CBD supports the endocannabinoid system and its efforts to keep your pet’s body and its array of functions in balance.
In other words, CBD works with the system in our bodies (pets and humans) that are in charge of the parts that make us feel good or bad without effecting the brain receptor in charge of intoxication.
What Kinds of Products Are Available?
At this time, CBD products are limited to oils and treats, and doesn't seem to be transitioning into the pet food category anytime soon. That's because, according to David A. Dzanis, DVM, PhD, DACVN via Petfoodindustry.com:
“AAFCO has subsequently issued guidelinesto note that to date, no hemp-based ingredients have been defined or otherwise sanctioned for use in animal feed, hence any inclusion in a feed or pet food would be objectionable to state feed control officials.”
With that said, there are plenty of oils and treats available to sell in your store. In fact, research from MJ Freeway, a data analytics firm referenced by Polly Mosendz in a December 2016 article on Bloomberg.com states that "sales of CBD pet products doubled in the US from 2014 to 2016."
As early adopters of the product - both in human and pet cases - try it out and experience the benefits, the word spreads and others give it a try. This is what has resulted in the substantial market growth we're seeing today.
How to Sell CBD Pet Products
The key to selling CBD products is two-fold:
- Providing education to pet owners on what it actually is and how it can potentially benefit their pet
- Being up-front about "potential" benefits versus "scientifically proven" benefits
Although it's rising in popularity, consider treating CBD products as if they're a brand new category, particularly if you're located in a more conservative region. It's important to understand that your customers may already have a particular point of view based on their own personal biases and experiences.
If you are located in a more conservative region, stay away from brands that associate their branding with marijuana and hemp. Look for products like Barkables who don't rely on keywords like "hemp" to promote themselves. Although there may be nothing inherently wrong with hemp itself, past stigmatism may make these more difficult to sell in these locations.
On the flip side, those located in more liberal regions are more likely to get away with these references. In states where marijuana has been legalized for longer periods of time, such as Washington and Colorado, there's less of a shock value associated with these words.
Work with the manufacturers to come up with educational materials, employee training seminars, and any other content you can come up with to educate your customers and set proper expectations.
Finally, don't feel pressured having to sell these products in your pet store. If they don't fit in with your target audience or brand strategy, then you don't need to jump on the trendy CBD bandwagon. Before you place an order with a manufacturer, consider whether they'll sell well in your store. Consider asking your current customers or using Google Trends to find out if people are looking for CBD products for their pets in your region.