THE alternative milk market has boomed in recent years with consumers now going through 150 million litres a year as they step away from traditional cows milk.

Ten per cent of this new market is made up of goats milk, with long standing family run dairy St Helen’s Farm holding the position of UK market leader. The Seaton Ross-based business supplies ten million litres every year - the equivalent of 62 per cent of the goats milk market.

A further seven million litres of goats’ milk is made into its goats’ milk products; yoghurts, cheese and butter.

But it’s not just the recent growth in popularity of alternative diary sources that stands behind the success of St Helen’s farm, which is this month bringing three new products to its ever growing portfolio.

St Helen’s farm has been farming goats since 1986. Originally located on a smallholding near Barmby on the Marsh, it was in the shadow of a little church called St Helen’s, which is where the name came from.

Since these early days, the farm grew steadily until the early 1990s when it moved to a greenfield site at Seaton Ross in the Vale of York.

Owners Angus and Kathleen Wielkopolski originally met at agricultural college and felt passionately about farming goats as, at the time, there were very few goat milk products available for people who wanted an alternative to cow’s milk products.

Back then, most of the goats’ milk products you could buy were from individual farms with nothing available in supermarkets, meaning that people looking for cows’ milk alternatives were very limited in terms of what they could buy.

Very soon after they began milking their herd of 500 goats the couple quickly began supplying supermarkets; Waitrose and Hillards, initially with a blend of goat and sheep milk yoghurts.

Since then, the farm and the herd has expanded and now covers 550 acres of land, where the business also grows its own crops to feed the goats. Employing a team of 40 staff, St Helen’s Farm also packs the entire range of its goats’ milk products on-site in a purpose-built modern dairy, serving its main customers Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.

In order to meet increasing demand, St Helen’s Farm also collects goats’ milk from eight other family farms in Yorkshire and the Midlands, many of whom have been established with goats from the St Helen’s Farm herd. As demand for its products grows, St Helen’s farm works very closely with their supplying farms, sharing best practice and providing help and advice when it’s needed.

St Helen’s Far now produces a wide range of goats milk products. Along with whole, semi-skimmed and skimmed milk, they also produce a range of yoghuts, cheese, butter, cream and two flavours of ice cream.

Research and innovation is always a priority for the company which has doubled its range in the last five years, and this month will be launching two new products; longlife goats’ milks (whole and semi-skimmed in 1L cartons) and a Goats’ Brie.

Vicky Unwin, marketing manager at St Helen’s Farm said: “UHT is whole new area for us. It opens up the opportunity to look at the possibility of exporting, as well as working with smaller retailers who cannot store fresh goods like milk.

“There hadn’t been any opportunity previously to produce long life goats’ milk in Britain, but we have now come across a British manufacturer, so we’re able to produce it here in the UK which has never been done before with goats’ milk.

“It was always very important to us to keep our product range British, and this new product widens our opportunities. Also people were asking for it, and that’s always a key thing for our business, we have always been very customer focussed and customer led.

“Availability is a really big issue for us. We are faced with strong consumer demand all the time, and people ask why aren’t we in all the big retailers.

“The brand loyalty is just amazing, people change where they shop for our products. When we have lost an account with a retailer we have found our overall output volumes haven’t changed, they just increase at another stockist. A big part of our focus is increasing our availability for customers.”