ROCKVILLE, Md. — The US pet treat market is expected to grow to $6.7 billion in revenue by the end of 2019, which would be a 3.1% increase from 2018 sales, according to Packaged Facts. The market research firm attributes this rise in sales to the overarching trend of humanization, which has impacted the pet industry from nutrition to technology to veterinary services.

In its latest report, “Pet Treats and Chews in the U.S., 3rd Edition,” Packaged Facts homes in on the dog and cat treat market, from ingredient trends driven by human trends and consumer preferences to competitive trends, insights and opportunities.

"Pet treats have come a long way in the past twenty years, with the aisles of pet stores closely resembling the snack aisles of human foods at supermarkets and products positioned as better-for-your-pet," said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. "Limited-ingredient products, grain-free options, and superfood ingredients are all in high demand, with innovative new product entries hitting the market on a regular basis."

“The momentum behind CBD pet treats is part of consumers' ongoing interest in functional treats in general."

One key ingredient that has taken the pet treat market by storm is hemp, as well as cannabidiol (CBD) oil derived from the hemp plant. Some pet owners have embraced this trend as a viable way to treat their pets and address health concerns — such as anxiety, digestive issues, chronic pain, mobility issues, inflammation or skin irritation — simultaneously.

In fact, Packaged Facts reported in its 2019 Survey of Pet Owners that 39% of dog owners and 34% of cat owners like the idea of CBD for pets; 29% of both dog and cat owners are interested in purchasing CBD pet supplements; and 11% of dog owners and 8% of cat owners have administered CBD or hemp treats to their pets already.

"CBD, or cannabidiol, supplements are in high demand in human markets, credited with treating conditions ranging from anxiety to asthma. The use of CBD has crossed over into the pet market, with usage spiking after the passage of the most recent Farm Bill in December 2018, which took a significant step towards separating hemp and hemp-derived CBD from marijuana-based products," Sprinkle explained.

However, the state-by-state regulatory environment around these products is still unclear. Dr. Steven Solomon, director of the US Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA CVM), said at the 2019 Feed and Pet Food Joint Conference on Sept. 31, 2019 that there are currently no substances derived from hemp that have been approved by the FDA for use in animal food, and that no CBD products can be legally marketed for animal consumption.

In a June 2019 article by Mike Annis and Emily Lyon at Husch Blackwell Law Firm, they made a strong case that the regulatory environment surrounding CBD and hemp-based pet products is unstable and therefore dangerous for businesses to engage in.

"Animal and pet food companies interested in using hemp or CBD in their products should proceed with caution as states are actively enforcing restrictions on use of these ingredients, especially CBD, when found in those products,” said Mike Annis and Emily Lyon of Husch Blackwell Law Firm.

“While there is confusion over whether hemp and CBD are allowed ingredients for use in animal and pet food, AAFCO and FDA’s positions make it clear that both ingredients are prohibited in these products at this time. Animal and pet food companies interested in using hemp or CBD in their products should proceed with caution as states are actively enforcing restrictions on use of these ingredients, especially CBD, when found in those products,” Annis and Lyon wrote.

On the other hand, Steve Smith, CEO of hemp pet product company Pet Releaf, said the FDA is on track to set clearer standards for the production of hemp-based pet industry products in his presentation on the state of CBD and hemp legalization and legislation during SuperZoo in August 2019. Smith is a member of the board consulting with the FDA to develop fair standards for safety and quality for these products.

It is clear that hemp and CBD pet products have been a hot topic in the industry throughout 2019 and will likely continue to be. Packaged Facts stated, “The momentum behind CBD pet treats is part of consumers' ongoing interest in functional treats in general.”

As the pet industry as a whole becomes increasingly focused on delivering functional nutrition to pets, pet food and treat processors should keep their pulse on these treat trends, including the regulatory environment for hemp and CBD pet products.

Keep up with the latest pet food trends on our Trends page.