Sales of goats milk continue to soar as lactose-intolerant consumers start to wise up to its health and flavour benefits - sometimes at the expense of soya.

Fresh goats milk sales have shot up 16.5% in the past year, with the retail market now worth £21.5m [Nielsen]. At Tesco, goats milk sales have risen 28%, while goats butter sales have gone up 31%, yoghurt sales up 23% and cheese up 16%, according to Nielsen.

The increase in popularity was partly due to a perception among lactose-intolerant consumers that they were able to drink goats milk, said Ed Salt, commercial director at goats product supplier Delamere Dairy.

Goats milk was genetically closer to human milk than that of cows, he added, making it more appealing to consumers with allergies. Other consumers prefer the taste of goats milk to soya - traditionally selected by those with allergies to cows milk. Though growth has slowed from 25% a year, experts said this was inevitable as the relatively new category ended its initial exponential growth phase.

As UK farmers responded to its growing popularity by producing more goats milk, further growth of up to 25% could be expected in the next couple of years, Salt predicted.

Supermarkets were stocking goats milk in larger volumes than before, but could still do more to carry a full range of goats products, said Mike Hind, sales and marketing manager at Tesco and Sainsbury's supplier St Helen's Farm.

"Many consumers discover goats milk, find they really like it, then find there are other products such as yoghurts and butters. Supermarkets should make sure they stock these as well," he said.

The company saw sales of goats cheese rise 29% in 2007, said Hind. Last year, St Helen's Farm purchased the 850-acre Far Marsh Farm near Hull to increase capacity. The company will also be running its annual Thank Goodness for Goats campaign from 21 July.