New interest in CBD products drives $7 billion pet treats market

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Everybody loves treats, including pets.

That’s partly why the market for pet treats in the US is expected to reach $6.7 billion dollars by the end of 2019, up from $6.5 billion in 2018, according to a new report from market research firm Packaged Facts.

Perhaps the report’s most noteworthy finding is pet owners’ growing interest in CBD and other functional pet treats. According to the report, “Product innovation featuring cannabidiol (CBD), an active ingredient in cannabis derived from hemp, in products for humans and pets alike has arguably been the most discussed trend of 2019.”

CBD treats fall under the umbrella of functional treats, also called nutraceutical treats. Functional treats offer intrinsic health benefits or contain additional ingredients designed to address specific health conditions, such as glucosamine for joint health or omega fatty acids for skin and coat health. Functional treats are produced in traditional forms, such as biscuits and jerky strips, as well as newer forms, such as soft chews, gravies, lick-off gels and pastes, beverages, and sprays.

The interest in CBD treats stems from pet owners’ ongoing interest in functional treats in general.

Shannon Brown, senior pet market analyst for Packaged Facts, told NEWStat, “Pet owners like the fact that they can get more ‘bang for the buck’ with functional treats, using them to address health and wellness issues while at the same time using them as a regular treat . . . without having to purchase treats and supplements separately.”

Functional treats typically focus on common health issues such as dental health, hip and joint problems, allergies, skin problems, and coat care.

“Pet owner interest in CBD has surged along with the soaring popularity of CBD among humans, driven by the growing media coverage of the benefits CBD is said to offer,” Brown said. Packaged Facts’ research shows that 11% of dog owners and 8% of cat owners have used cannabidiol supplements or treats for their pets.

She points to passage of the 2018 Farm Bill as another big factor—the bill categorized industrial hemp (the source of CBD) as an agricultural product rather than as a controlled substance, which paved the way for medical testing and product research.

For pets, the most popular CBD products include oils, supplement chews, and treats.

“Human food trends continually trickle down to the pet food and treat markets,” Brown said. Some of the bigger impacts of that include the desire for natural/organic pet products, the expectation of increased transparency [of] ingredients, the use of functional ingredients such as superfruits and ancient grains, and an overall focus on health and wellness. In short, Brown said, pet owners now expect “an overall focus on health and wellness” from pet treats.

The takeaway here for veterinary professionals according to Brown: “Pet owners are looking for safe, healthy treats that they can use to pamper or reward their pets.” When recommending pet treats to your clients, Browns said, focus on “functional products that provide additional health or wellness benefits and products that are made and sourced in the US.”

The focus on treats being sourced in the US isn’t a patriotism thing—it’s because many owners are concerned about recent pet treat recalls due to threats posed by foreign-sourced treats and chews, such as recent FDA warnings about pig ears sourced from South America.

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