dent of Pet Releaf.
“When Pet Releaf first launched, the biggest hurdle
was, ‘What the heck is CBD, and are you getting my pet
high?’” Smith explained. “Fast forward five years, and
the average consumer has at least a basic understand-
ing that there’s this thing called CBD, which won’t get
you high and has therapeutic qualities.”
Increased awareness about CBD and its potential
benefits also means an influx in offerings in the catego-
ry for both humans and pets, which isn’t necessarily a
positive for consumers.
“In the human world, CBD has already gotten abso-
lutely silly,” Smith said. “I am waiting for CBD-infused
T-shirts to appear any day now. In the pet world, we
are starting to see an absolute flood of irresponsible
companies trying to chase the ‘green rush’—brand-new
pet companies and even existing brands who know
nothing about CBD other than where to have it white
Smith predicts that this trend will persist for the
next 18 to 24 months, until the FDA issues regulations
on hemp-derived CBD. Smith is a member of the U.S.
Hemp Roundtable’s board of directors and the board’s
four-person FDA subcommittee.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell nominated the FDA subcommittee members as the industry
experts, giving them a “seat at the table” while the regulations are drafted, Smith said.
“I can assure you, the Wild West CBD world has a
day of reckoning coming,” Smith said. “False claims
of organic will be heavily fined, false labeling such as
claiming full spectrum while ‘boosting’ CBD counts on
the cheap with isolates will be heavily fined or banned,
testing requirements will become more uniform, etc. So
to the companies offering inferior and even dangerous
products, and those companies that white label from
dubious sources, Pet Releaf will say, ‘Good riddance.’”
Shrout hopes that research catches up to the hype
surrounding CBD in the near future to provide more
solid data among a sea of positive anecdotal evidence.
“It is clear these types of products have great potential, but adding more safety in dosing and proper
usage, as well as weeding out the lower-quality, in-it-for-the-money manufacturers would be advisable,”
AN ONGOING CONVERSATION
Pet owners are an increasingly educated group of shoppers; however, even they might need some
guidance when it comes to shopping for supplements for their cats and dogs, industry participants report.
With this in mind, retailers should be connecting with their manufacturers and veterinarian partners to
ensure that staff is equipped with information about these products to pass on to customers, said Norm
Shrout, co-owner of Long Leash on Life in Albuquerque, N.M.
“The bottom line is that most supplements require a conversation with the pet parent,” he said. “Many
have specific dosing requirements, refrigeration requirements or other usage instructions that may be
unapparent. This is one of the many benefits of shopping at a local independent retailer.”
Shrout said he tries to keep customer service staff circulating near the natural supplements to make
sure no questions go unanswered.
Customers looking for natural supplements are generally “thirsty for knowledge” and will want to
scrutinize ingredient labels before purchasing the products, said Dave Fedorchak, vice president of
research, development and procurement for PetGuard, a pet food, treats and supplements manufacturer
based in Pittsburgh.
“Savvy retailers can address this by providing promotional materials at point of sale and encouraging
staff members to properly educate themselves on each brand,” he said.
Manufacturers can be a key resource for retailers and pet owners alike.
Pet Releaf in Littleton, Colo., is investing significant time and money into educating consumers as the
cannabidiol (CBD) market grows, said president Steve Smith.
While awareness and availability of CBD products are booming, Smith said a data firm hired by Pet
Releaf, which produces a growing variety of CBD pet supplements, found that less than 35 percent of pet
owners understand that pets can benefit from CBD, which points to an area of potential improvement.
“Education, education, education is how Pet Releaf will continue to dominate the pet CBD space and
maintain our unmatched retailer support,” Smith said. “That education will always be both digital-based
and reinforced by our A-team of superstar territory managers. Our seed-to-sale, plant-to-pet model is
unmatched in the industry.”
STEP UP THE SHELF SPACE
While supplements were once often squeezed in on crowded pet store shelves,
hidden among a sea of other products, retailers are bringing these items out in the
open as consumer demand for them grows.
Retailers should give natural supplements ample shelf space, said Dave
Fedorchak, vice president of research, development and procurement for PetGuard
“Instead of crowding all those bottles together, spread them out a little to make
it easier for busy shoppers to zero in on the product they want,” he suggested.
Pet Releaf recommends that its products be displayed either in the supplement
section or near the registers.
“With displaying at the register, you’re ensuring that it captures the customer’s
eye while they’re checking out and can be a great conversation starter for the
cashier,” said Jillian Dutson, marketing and advertising manager for the Littleton,
Long Leash on Life in Albuquerque, N.M., merchandises cat supplements at the
entrance of its cat section, while dog supplements are kept near the checkout, said
co-owner Norm Shrout.
The store has had success grouping similarly functioning supplements together
to help shoppers identify the “good/better/best” products, but finds signage to be
less helpful in boosting supplement sales.
“Signage has become a lost art form, since consumers in general avoid reading
them,” Shrout said.
Instead, Long Leash on Life uses seasonal displays to feature supplements—for
example, calming products are highlighted around the Fourth of July.
“Anything that can be spelled out via display, rather than signage, helps get your
selling points across,” Shrout said.
What kinds of marketing techniques has your
company found to be successful in getting the word
out about natural supplements?
“We try all kinds of marketing tactics constantly to be a trendsetter in the space, but we also
pride ourselves on word-of-mouth, as many customers share their success stories amongst each
other.”—JILLIAN DUTSON, marketing and advertising manager for Pet Releaf in Littleton, Colo.
“We spend a fair amount of time and effort introducing pet owners to PetGuard
products via social media, influencer blogs and the like. We also hand out free
samples at consumer events nationwide to encourage pet parents to try our
brand.”—DAVE FEDORCHAK, vice president of research, development and
procurement for PetGuard in Pittsburgh
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