BY HEIDI HILL, founded of Holistic Hound
When I started selling CBD products in my retail store in Berkeley, California, about five years ago, we were the first in our area to carry these types of products. Customer feedback was phenomenal, and I knew then that CBD was something unique and wonderful that could help many animals (and people). I had always been focused on health and wellness and decided to formulate my own line of phytocannabinoid-rich (PCR) hemp and medicinal mushroom supplements, which I launched about a year later. It’s been incredibly exciting and satisfying to witness the positive therapeutic effects our products have had on so many animals coping with conditions from pain, anxiety and inflammation to allergies, cancer treatment side effects, end-of-life issues and so many more.
CBD is now getting a ton of positive buzz, especially as products become more readily available at mainstream retailers nationwide and the category begins providing significant revenue opportunity. Now, more than ever, it’s really important for retailers to understand how to differentiate and select the products that are the best fit for their customers.
Here are some key considerations when researching and selecting CBD products:
QUALITY AND TESTING: In the absence of regulation, it’s important to research and choose reputable brands with quality, integrity and transparency. Products should contain hemp that is organically grown; provide clear labeling and independent third-party testing for potency, residual solvents and pesticides; and meet the quality standards of your store and your customers. In addition, look for brands that are members of the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC), a highly respected organization that requires compliance with its rigorous and strict quality system before receiving its coveted Seal of Quality.
DOSING: In the pet world, it is particularly important to understand the ways in which dosages and ratios affect animals differently than humans. Choose products with clear dosing instructions geared specifically to animals, not just transposed from human dosing recommendations. Even small amounts can be extremely effective so we recommend starting with a small dosage and increasing incrementally to achieve desired results.
HEMP VS. MARIJUANA: Cannabis products can be derived from either hemp or marijuana. Products that contain less than .3 percent THC (Holistic Hound products contain 0 percent THC) meet the definition of “industrial” hemp and are legal to sell in retail outlets nationwide. It is important to note that we derive our PCR from non-traditional industrial plants that have been bred and cultivated to include higher levels of CBD. Products derived from marijuana plants are bred with higher levels of THC and can only be sold through dispensaries.
FULL SPECTRUM VS. ISOLATE: Consider products that are made with full-spectrum phytocannabinoid-rich hemp oil, which contain CBD as well as additional cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids and other beneficial constituents. All of these work together synergistically to provide what is known as the “entourage effect,” which provides greater and more effective benefits than an isolate product that contains CBD alone.
RETAILER EDUCATION: As retailers, we can become more knowledgeable by trying the products on ourselves and our animals, carefully considering the information provided by the manufacturer and/or distributor, and taking advantage of ongoing sales support (such as in-store trainings) from both.
CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT: It’s helpful to engage consumers by offering samples at the front counter or register, along with brochures and signage about the benefits of PCR hemp. Customer feedback forms are a great way to gain valuable information on their experience using the products and can inform your brand knowledge, as well as your recommendations and interactions with future customers. Email blasts to customer lists are also very effective—so many customers are curious about these products and may not know that they are available outside of dispensaries. Organizing a talk or lecture by a local expert is another great way to educate and create interest and demand. Interaction with local trainers who have had success with CBD has also brought people in to inquire about the products.
With the continued growing consumer interest in CBD/PCR therapy, coupled with a huge influx of new brands in the category, it’s more important than ever for retailers to learn how to differentiate and select the products that are the best fit for their customers. Together, we can help educate ourselves and our customers to the benefits of this amazing plant and support our pets’ total health, wellness and vitality.