Sam Moorhouse 


Hesper Farm, Hesper Skyr, North Yorkshire

SAM Moorhouse knew nothing about making yoghurt two years ago, but now he is looking to expand his initial enterprise and break into supermarket sales.

The meteoric rise has not been without its trials, as finding the capital to set up the business and be assured the market is there are two major factors.

Sam, 23, farms the 140ha (345-acre) Hesper Farm, just north west of Skipton, with parents George and Judith.

He admits at times it has been a bit of a gamble, but he is confident he will secure a niche for his skyr yoghurt, particularly as he is the first in the UK to produce it.

After his national diploma in agriculture at Reaseheath College and a year in Australia, Sam returned home to the dairy and sheep farm and was looking for his own enterprise when an article on skyr yoghurt caught his eye.

He says: “It seemed like a good product for our market with its health benefits of high protein, high calcium and low fat, and it was something I thought would appeal to the mass market.”

So he went to Iceland and met up with skyr expert Thorarinn Sveinsson, who offered advice and encouragement to start the enterprise.

Working with Reaseheath, he did a lot of research into the market and some trial tasting runs to see what people thought of it, but, despite this, he secretly admits it was a leap into the unknown.

“It was a bit of a risk and there is only so much research you can do, so I presented my case to the bank manager and he turned me down.”

However, armed with a more detailed business plan, he tried a second time for a sum approaching £200,000, and this time got the green light. So he set about modernising a former calf house to food standards and purchased the equipment to go in it.

Now with 10 regional Booths stores on board and local farm shops as well, he is well under way, using 2000 litres of milk a week which makes almost 700kg of yoghurt.

He says: “It is now seven days a week for me and we are at the limit of production. We need to upgrade our equipment.”

Currently, farm milk is sent away to be pasteurised before being bought back, and he hopes to secure some of this margin himself by putting in his own pasteuriser and upping production to meet demand.

He says: “Milk is still our main income and we are running this as a separate business, but we have got past the first stage and starting to make a profit, so we are now looking to expand.”

He is already in talks with some of the major supermarkets and hopes to convince them about the potential for the product.

But before he signs up with any of them, he needs to convince his bank manager and will be urging him to demonstrate his earlier support for this embryonic business and back him with a further loan to finance the expansion plan.