An award winning yoghurt produced in the Dales has made it to the shelves in Knightsbridge.
Sam Moorhouse, 26, of Hespter Farm, Bell Busk, travelled to Reykjavik and spent six months there learning how to make the creamy Icelandic-style yoghurt, skyr, as part of his farm’s diversification programme in 2015. Since then the nutritious and creamy dairy product has won awards, scooping a gold start in the nationwide Great Taste Awards a year later.
That same year the product won two further awards in the Deliciously Yorkshire Taste Awards, and the business has featured on TV programme James Martin’s Home Comforts, and featured on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme.
The following year he won the Diversification Innovator of the Year 2017 (small to medium) award, sponsored by Firma FX at the National Conference Centre, in Birmingham. The awards showcased the innovation and achievements of farmers across the agricultural industry.
Hesper Farm was the first farm in the UK to produce skyr and initially launched the product in local retail outlets and supermarkets including selected branches of Booths stores and Keelham farm shop, as well as Town End Farm Shop, in Airton.
"We’ve had a lot of interest because skyr is a relatively new product to the market and we’re the first farm in the UK to produce it. It took a lot of work to get it to the point of launching, and we’re so pleased that people are enjoying it so much. We have been working really hard to tweak production and improve the product and packaging as we have gone along,” said Mr Moorhouse.
“Diversifying has been a real learning curve but increasingly dairy farms are having to look at ways to create additional income to be able to continue. We’ve farmed here for generations so looking to the farm’s future is really important to us,” he added.
Knowing that his skyr product is being enjoyed in the capital and has found a place on the shelves in Harrods is especially exciting for the farmer. “We launched in 2015 with a product that was completely new to the British market, starting out at Town End Farm Shop in Airton and Keelham Farm Shop. To think we’re now stocked on Harrods shelves in Knightsbridge is incredible.
“Our skyr is made with pedigree milk from the farm and a genuine heritage Icelandic skyr culture so we always knew it was a quality, premium product but as seals of approval go, they don’t get much bigger than this. We are proud to be making an artisan product here in the Dales, using milk from our own pedigree herd, which is true to its Icelandic heritage.
“We are so proud and couldn’t be more delighted. As always we thank each and every one of all our customers. They are so loyal and we are so grateful for their support. We’ll keep working hard and see where we get to next.”
The product is particularly healthy as it is high in protein and calcium but at the same time, low in sugar with zero fat.
Judges who gave the awards said of the product: “It’s a thick yoghurt with a pleasing acidity. We like its clean taste. It is clean and pure, there is a creaminess with the classic texture of skyr - a kind of calcium-rich yoghurt.”
Skyr – pronounced skeer – is a staple in Iceland and dates back to around the ninth century. It is made by incubating skimmed milk with live active cultures. The water contained in the milk – the whey – is then strained away.
“Per pot, about four times as much milk as an equivalent pot of traditional plain yoghurt is used meaning it’s incredibly thick and creamy. It also means that the skyr contains more protein and calcium than standard yoghurt.”
Thorarinn Sveinsson, the dairy engineer in Reykjavik who Mr Moorhouse trained under, has visited Hesper Farm to see the process being followed. He said: “He has taken the whole process so seriously and has paid attention to every last detail.
“In fact he is using a heritage culture which originally dates back to 874, meaning his skyr is actually genuine Icelandic skyr – the real thing made in the Yorkshire Dales. Skyr is part of everyday life in Iceland. I am sure that with its delicious taste and the health benefits you’ll see it becoming part of life here too.”