If it seems like you’re seeing CBD products everywhere, that’s because you are. Cannabidiol oil, a naturally occurring chemical produced by the hemp plant, has become a household name with millennials and is gaining popularity with other generations. But what exactly is it and is the hype worth it?

Although scientists have isolated 108 different types of cannabinoids in cannabis, CBD and THC are the two most popularly known. While both work by interacting with our body’s endocannabinoid system, there are some key differences between them. THC, unlike CBD, causes a euphoric effect, or “high,” when consumed. CBD, on the other hand, is non-psychoactive but is quickly gaining worldwide acceptance due to its potential therapeutic benefits including managing stress, anxiety, arthritis, and even epilepsy.

There’s basically CBD in almost everything at this point

The CBD gold rush has begun. It’s been popping up in beauty and skincare products from vitamins to bath bombs, to shampoos and lotions. It’s being sold in coffee shops and farmer’s markets, and even being added to gummy bears. CBD oil’s characteristic calming properties have made it a popular treatment for pain and anxiety and enhancement for sleep and sport performance. Food and beverage companies are also jumping on the CBD bandwagon. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream moguls recently announced that they, too, plan on getting in on the CBD action with infused ice cream, once approved by the FDA.

Three dog treat milk bones piled on top of one another

Pets like CBD, too

While human consumer-focused brands have undoubtedly been influential in driving the CBD movement, pet companies are also barking up the same path. CBD pet products are on the rise, with pet treats becoming a hot market. Pet owners are experimenting with CBD treats for some of the same reasons humans are consuming CBD themselves. According to Pet Food Industry, 85% of dog owners and 38% of cat owners said their pets sometimes deal with anxiety and stress. CBD treats offer a simple and effective way for pet parents to distribute CBD to their pets in the form of crunchy treats, chews, and peanut butter instead of having pets directly consume the oil.

Through the years, the pet supplements market has benefited from the popularization and cross-over of various ingredients from human consumers, like omega fatty acids—and now, CBD. Just like products for themselves, pet parents are interested in making sure the products they give their pets have more than simply “natural” claims. They want to make sure CBD products will not affect their pet’s overall health and wellness. Packaging and labeling for pet products are just as important—and will continue to be as important—as it is for human CBD products.

Is CBD just a fad?

Now, the question we’ll all wondering—Is CBD a trend or is it here to stay? CBD’s been making headlines as the cure-all herbal supplement you didn’t know you needed. But without FDB approval and regulation, the CBD market is akin to the Wild West. Consumers must rely on business owners to deliver a safe, effective product. Despite these complications, the future of CBD looks bright. Health-minded millennials hoping to cure anxieties naturally and reap other benefits are driving this trend, and so far, it’s sticking. As research keeps revealing more therapeutic benefits of CBD for the mind and body, the CBD train isn’t slowing down. Given it’s associated with the growing $4.2 trillion health and wellness industry, there’s evidence it’ll stick around.

Seed-to-shelf, a new way to capitalize on CBD

Farm-to-table, a movement in the restaurant industry which sources food directly from farm to restaurant (eliminating the middleman) is a trend that’s stuck in the industry. It focuses on the best possible ingredients. It supports local farmers. What’s there not to like? CBD companies looking to capitalize on CBD can potentially start the same kind of social movement with “seed-to-shelf.”

Afterall, knowing the origin of your CBD is important to consumers. The cannabis plant is a bioaccumulator, meaning it quickly absorbs both nutrients and toxic chemicals like heavy metals from the soil. Knowing where and which part of the plant the CBD product is derived from brings real value to consumers. The ideal candidate for a seed-to-shelf campaign is one who uses CBD isolates. Isolates are the purest form of CBD and is created by splitting or isolating the CBD from all other components of the cannabis plant, making the end-product truly pure.

The importance of traceability

Another crucial element of this movement—traceability. Responsible communication about the product and what is in it is incredibly important to consumers, especially when it comes to products designed to be digested or absorbed by the body. Consumers want to know that what they are purchasing is pure and that the label is accurate. Understanding the life cycle of the hemp plant from when it is first planted to when the CBD is extracted and put into various products will become increasingly important to consumers. Companies who are transparent with this process, the ingredients, and the product itself will be more successful then competitors.

FDA approval is still pending

It seems that just about everyone is onboard with the CBD craze. That is, except the FDA. At the federal level, CBD in food and drink is still illegal. The FDA is concerned about a multitude of things—from long-term health effects, cumulative exposure, effects on special populations (e.g. the elderly, children, and pregnant women to name just a few), and the safety of CBD use in animals—especially with the lack of scientific evidence and research. Some CBD products are even being marketed with unproven medical claims, causing misleading and false claims that could put consumer’s health at risk, especially in the instance a person forgoes proven medical treatment to try CBD products instead.

In 2018, the Farm Bill legalized hemp, but the legal status of hemp-derived cannabidiol remains in limbo. CBD can be derived from hemp or cannabis, but if a hemp plant contains more than 0.3% THC, it is technically a marijuana plant. All this to say, it’s confusing and implementing regulations to control CBD on the market is no easy feat. It’s going to take more time for the FDA to draft and implement regulations. But businesses are optimistic due to the pace CBD is hitting stride with. Accounting to one consumer insights report, CBD is on track to become a $6 billion industry by 2025.

Did we make it clear? Brands will come out on top!

Where there is confusion, there is opportunity. With the buzz getting ahead of the scientific and regulatory curve, how are consumers (and the trade) going to make sense of the regulations, products, claims and story lines behind offerings entering the market? Some explorer consumers may be willing to experiment based on a deeper understanding of the many product attributes and benefits that deliver safe and pure remedies for what ails them and their pets. For most of us, the gold rush mentality for hundreds of products entering the market will lead to noise, parity and confusion. It’s a lot for consumers to take in.

Building a trusted brand that provides meaningful connections to consumer needs, both practical and emotional, will be the key differentiator. Whether you are an existing brand looking to add CBD benefits or a new one, the importance of gaining insights into the market, providing education and building branded trust and solutions for consumers looking to make smarter decisions will be greater than ever.

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