Links between CBD pet and human markets offer insights

Surveys show similar consumer interest and use of CBD pet and human products and also the same lack of information, research and legal status.

(Dmitry_Tishchenko |
(Dmitry_Tishchenko |

If we needed further proof that the pet food and health markets move in tandem (or very close to it) with human food and health, new data on U.S. consumer interest in and use of cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) for their own health management provides it. The data skew very closely to what we know about pet owner interest and use of CBD for their furry family members.

In fact, CBD seems to have exploded across both the pet and human markets at the same time and at the same crazily rapid rate, despite its legal murky status in either market. “Looking back [at the pet supplements market], it’s hard to recall anything making more of a splash in both human and pet supplements than CBD,” commented David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts, on his company’s release of its latest pet supplements report in May 2019.

Perhaps the lack of full legality (accompanied by lack of regulatory enforcement, at least until recently) and the Wild, Wild West nature of the CBD category have even contributed to the similar interest and growth rates between the two markets. It may be a case of consumers thinking, “If anything goes for me with CBD products, why not for my pet, too?” (or vice versa).

Human market data on cannabis, CBD offer insights

The new data on the U.S. human health market comes from Mintel, whose recent research broke down survey responses between consumers living in states where cannabis has been approved for medical use only and those in states that have also legalized it for recreational use. Of course, cannabis and CBD are not the same compounds, chemically or in terms of legality or the effects on humans vs. pets: While pets have been known to suffer considerably from ingesting cannabis, they seem to derive some of the same benefits from CBD as people do, though little research has been done to date.

Mintel’s research focused more on cannabis, with some CBD information sprinkled in; yet even the cannabis-only data offer some insights. “The appeal of cannabis and CBD are linked to the products’ perceived health benefits, with U.S. adults reporting relaxation (67%), stress relief (60%) and improved sleep (50%) as their leading reasons for use in any format,” Mintel’s press release said. “Three-fifths (61%) of cannabis users, in states where recreational cannabis is legal, report at least some focus on health as a driver for use.”

The research delved into areas such as mental health and sleep-related issues, showing that in states where cannabis is approved only for medical use, 41% of respondents said they would consider treating or managing a mental health issue with cannabis, while 39% would consider only CBD products. In terms of sleep: “More than half (56%) of consumers in recreationally legal states and 58% in medical-only states say they would use cannabis instead of over-the-counter sleep aids to help them fall asleep, emphasizing the plant’s potential in sleep health,” the release said.

Perhaps the closest parallel to CBD (for humans or pets) with cannabis lies in the lack of information and consumer understanding. Mintel reported that 19% of consumers in recreationally legal states and 22% of those in medical-only states said they don’t know much about cannabis. A recommendation from a medical professional would make 42% of adults in medically legal states and 37% in recreationally legal states more likely to consider using cannabis for health reasons, yet only 9% in either category said they have talked about cannabis with a physician or pharmacist.

Focusing on pet owners, their pets and CBD

Regarding pets and CBD, the 2019 pet supplements report from Packaged Facts, based on its own consumer surveys, showed 39% of dog owners and 34% of cat owners like the idea of giving CBD supplements to their pets, while 29% of either category of owners said they would be interested in buying them if CBD pet supplements were legal.

Later in 2019, Packaged Facts released another new report, this time on the pet treats and chews market. Data from that revealed 11% of dog owners and 8% of cat owners reported using cannabis (CBD/hemp) supplements or treats for their pets.

Yet those figures are low compared to another source: a consumer survey conducted by Bigeye, an advertising agency in Orlando, Florida, USA. According to that report, which surveyed 784 U.S. pet owners, 17% said they currently use CBD products on their pets and 42% said they would consider using them in the future. Just 24% would not consider using them, with 17% unsure.

Broken down by pet species, 20% of dog owners currently use CBD pet products, followed by 15% of cat owners. Not surprisingly, younger pet owners (those aged 25-34) are more likely to use CBD pet products, with 29% reporting they do so, compared with only 7% of owners aged 45-55. In addition, the Bigeye survey showed pet owners are most likely to use or consider CBD to treat their pets’ anxiety or stress, followed by conditions like seizures, nausea, cancer symptoms and gastrointestinal issues (very similar to the reasons why people use CBD for themselves).

And the pet industry has responded to all this interest: As of July 2019, there were 209 hemp or hemp-derivative (such as CBD) pet products on the U.S. market, according to the National Animal Supplement Council. Further, out of approximately 34 million times that these hemp-derivative pet supplements have been used, only six adverse events have been reported in dogs, with one in cats and three in horses, according to the organization.

Research, regulations need to catch up

Global Pet Expo 2020 is only about a month away, and no doubt its aisles will be full of new CBD pet products, just as in the past few years as well as at SuperZoo. Jacinthe Moreau, until recently the president of the World Pet Association (organizer of SuperZoo), wrote in the January 2020 issue of Pet Product News that sales of CBD pet sales in the U.S. could reach US$1.16 billion by 2022, according to the Brightfield Group.

Let’s hope research on these products’ safety and efficacy starts to catch up with the boom. Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration’s warning letters in late November 2019 to manufacturers of such products could be a sign that legal and regulatory clarity may be on the horizon, too.




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