A company with North Okanagan roots is poised to be a global leader in cannabis-based pet industry health products.
Darcy Bomford, chief executive officer and founder of True Leaf Medicine and True Leaf Pet, says the pet industry offers a potential multi-billion global industry for pet products, $30 billion alone just in the U.S.
Speaking at the Okanagan Cannabis Business Symposium earlier this week in Kelowna, Bomford outlined how his company’s initial line of products developed from hemp seed are now available in 2,000 stores across North America and the company has invested to develop its brand name in a highly competitive industry while working to expand sales in European markets.
Bomford said while he sees a tremendous upside in selling cannabis-based pet care products to deal with such symptoms as anxiety and joint pain, others in the industry see the same potential.
“I went to a conference in Florida last year and there were three exhibitors marketing pet health care products. This year there were more than 30,” he said.
Built around the slogan of “returning the love to your pets,” True Leaf’s initial hemp seed product development doesn’t have the same regulatory demands that cannabis-based products will have.
“Everything we are doing with hemp seed right now is totally legal,” said Bomford, noting hemp seed doesn’t involve cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), two natural compounds found in cannabis plants that require additional regulatory oversight.
Bomford has been involved in the pet industry for more than 20 years, starting his own pet supplement company, that morphed into a pet treat company, generating $7 million to $8 million in sales annually with one plant in Canada and two in the U.S that primarily made baked dog biscuits.
In 2012, Bomford parted ways with the company, agreeing to a one-year non-compete clause, the same time that the federal government announced new rules around the production and sale of medicinal cannabis.
Bomford felt cannabis could offer a unique ingredients for products for pets as well as people, and became the 48th applicant to seek a Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) license, which has since evolved into the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR).
“We were in the queue but the prime minister at the time was very anti-cannabis, and there were so many applications that the system for approval stalled,” he said.
Not knowing when the license might be approved, Bomford launched the True Leaf Pet line of hemp seed influenced health care products while awaiting for a medicinal cannabis license to be approved, which hasn’t happened yet.
“We are hoping to see our license be approved by the winter of 2018 and our license to sell cannabis-base products approved by the spring of 2019,” Bomford said.
“The application process has been slow but we have secured a 40-care site in Lumby with an initial lab and production facility capacity of 25,000 square feet. We have enough land on the site to one day see that expand to more than one million square feet but we are still in phase one at this point.”
Bomford said baby boomers were a big driver in the pet product industry, and some saw the next generation Millennials as not having the same desire to own pets as part of a greater lifestyle priority reset.
“While Millennials are not having kids and buying homes as soon as baby boomers were, what the industry was surprised to find that while they may be waiting longer to have kids, they are interested still in having pets and lead a more cannabis-driven lifestyle familiarity that has created this opportunity for pet industry product expansion,” Bomford said.
In an interview earlier this year, Bomford noted the pet industry is in a pivotal moment of change right now because consumers are going online to buy their pet products and have them delivered to their home.
“The guys that are killing it in the industry right now have a good online brand, a website, and they have influencers that follow the brand and talk about it and believe in it. They have quality product. And that’s where we’re heading with True Leaf,” he said.
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