New investment secures growth for farm yoghurt business with 1,000-year-old recipe for success

THE only UK farm to make a nutritious yoghurt from a ninth century Icelandic recipe using British milk is set for national growth after securing major entrepreneurial investment in a deal brokered by accountants and business advisers, Garbutt & Elliott.

Hesper Farm Dairies Ltd, Skipton, is tripling its workforce to boost production after two Yorkshire entrepreneurs became investors in a deal arranged by the corporate finance team at York-based Garbutt & Elliott.

Hesper Farm has been producing Skyr for four years after the family farm’s third generation, Sam Moorhouse, visited Iceland in 2015 to learn the ancient Viking recipe after finding no one in Britain then made the thick, creamy natural yoghurt.

Sam Moorhouse was introduced to Garbutt & Elliott partner, Tony Farmer, because of the firm’s specialist food and beverage sector expertise, including its own annual food and drink business awards.

Hesper Farm’s Skyr yoghurt, made in its purpose-built diary, using milk from its award-winning pedigree Holstein Friesian herd, has been produced by only three people but is already supplied to 110 northern stores, including all Booths, and several Morrisons, supermarkets as well as farm shops and Harrods, London.

Managing director of Hesper Farm Dairy Ltd, Sam Moorhouse, says: “Tony and his team have been integral in positioning us for the next stage in our development. We are grateful for their expertise and the new investors who have placed faith in us.

“The investment, and setting up an accounting system, enables us to pursue a national supermarket account. Our long-term aim is to make Hesper Farm the top British Skyr brand and to introduce other innovative dairy products.

“We are creating six new jobs and will make about 55,000kg of Skyr this year compared with around 9,000kg in our first 12 months.”

Skyr yoghurt is made in a 24-hour labour-intensive process, with minimal mechanisation, by incubating skimmed milk with live active cultures and straining away the whey. Each pot uses four times as much milk as traditional plain yogurt, making it thick and creamy. The only sweetness is natural.

Tony Farmer says: “Sam has a great natural product and the new investors are supporting an innovative UK food product with huge sales potential. We are excited to be applying our food sector experience to assist the growth of the business.”

Lead investor, founder and chairman of Elland-based BCA Group, Wim Batist, says: “While Sam had financial help from his parents to set up, he needed a lot more to reach where he wants to be.  His business has potential to become a multi-million pound operation, especially with his strict quality control.”

Tony Farmer’s team included corporate finance senior manager, Stephen Garbett, banking director, David Streather and corporate finance executive, Mark Jennings.

Garbutt & Elliott’s 10-strong corporate finance team, which also has a base in Leeds, includes three partners and operates throughout the UK, advising on business valuations, company flotations, business exits, financial due diligence, finance raising and business sales and has 80 years’ combined experience comprising more than 200 deals across a wide range of commercial sectors.

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