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Irish entrepreneur David Hartigan launched Hemp Heros, a human and pet CBD startup that is now Ireland’s leading pet CBD brand.
CBD is one of the hottest consumer products in the market today. It’s being added to everything from tea to body lotion and meatballs. Tons of CBD oil products have found their way into the mainstream market, including CBD vaping cartridges, lip balms, tinctures, and even cosmetics. Due to its rise in popularity, hundreds of companies are creating and selling CBD related products, and that number will only go up.
Pet products are another possibly lucrative market since people love splurging on their pets. Last year, Americans spent $33 billion on pet food and treats, according to Nielsen.
Sales of CBD pet products quadrupled last year to $32 million from $8 million in 2017, according to the Brightfield Group. The cannabis-focused research firm estimates the market could balloon to $1.16 billion in the U.S. alone by 2022.
As more companies enter the fray, it is more important than ever to know where to find high-quality products that are safe and effective to use.
“CBD is such a new industry that there are a lot of bad actors and low quality brands,” says Hartigan. “We have had customers that tried CBD and it didn’t work, and I know of brands that have no actual CBD in their products. There is a lot of fraud and if people have a negative first experience you have to win them back.”
Heidi Whitman, a UK-based former global strategy director at Avida Global, which produces medicinal cannabis oil, says demand is only expected to grow in the future. Obesity, a growing problem in pets, often leads to arthritis, she says, adding that consumer awareness about CBD will also put pressure on vets to include it in their repertoire.
“This industry is in the millions heading for the billions,” Whitman predicts.
David Hartigan first found out about using CBD — a compound naturally found in cannabis that has medical benefits but won’t get you high — on pets when managing professional fighters who were using it for recovery, sleep and healing. One of them had given CBD to his dog, who was on ineffective painkillers.
“The vet recommended he be put down, but instead he used CBD and it worked wonders,” says Hartigan. “He lived another two and half years.”
This prompted Hartigan to further investigate the CBD market and he went on to launch Hemp Heros, a human and pet CBD startup that is now Ireland’s leading pet CBD brand. The company offers seven products — in oil, capsule and peanut butter form — for dogs, cats and horses.
CBD has proven benefits for joint pain, anxiety, inflammation, skin problems and neurological disorders like epilepsy in humans. Although less data is available for pets, studies show it can relieve osteoarthritis in dogs, with some able to come off medication for chronic pain.
Cannabis has a foothold in European veterinary practice. In France, the seed oil has been used to treat sores in dogs’ ears and in Italy it has been used for colic and urinary pain.
In Scotland and England, it has been applied in veterinary practice for its opium-like properties and its abilities to treat asthma, convulsions, cough, cystitis and tetanus. While CBD products are currently not authorised in the UK for veterinary use, according to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), under the provisions of the veterinary medicines prescribing cascade, vets may be able to prescribe a legally obtained human CBD product.
Switzerland-based cannabis manufacturer Formula Swiss is seeing major demand in the Nordics, Germany and the UK, according to its CEO and cofounder Robin Roy Krigslund-Hansen. He adds it is also seeing demand for CBD in forms like pet food or sticks, and for differently flavored products.
However, there are still challenges around stigma and skepticism, especially among vets.
While safe dosages for human use have been assessed and calculated, the safe dosages for the various species and sizes of animals have not been determined.
Hemp Heros is pursuing clinical studies with a veterinary college to explore CBD’s impact on arthritis, a common problem for dogs and for which strong anti inflammatories can cause problems like liver damage over the long-term.
Hartigan says most of the CBD industry uses either CO2 or ethanol extraction, which effectively flush hemp to extract active ingredients — the cannabinoids. But this technique is expensive and not without risks. Ethanol is a flammable solvent, and any residue can cause serious health implications, including blindness.
Hemp Heros developed a cold press method, effectively juicing raw hemp under intense pressure, giving a cleaner, better quality product. Hartigan decided to own the whole supply chain — from “seed to shelf” — to control costs, provide the foundation to scale internationally and guarantee quality.
Hartigan hopes that with clinical data, and an end-to-end supply chain, Hemp Heros will expand into the UK, Germany, Italy, France and Malta.