Originally launched as an alternative for people intolerant to cows milk, goats butter has been in supermarkets for more than a decade, with the market now estimated at £5m-£6m by leading producers and retailers.

The attraction is obvious. It sells at a 20% to 30% premium compared with cows butter. Market leader St Helen's Farm, which set up its goats milk dairy 25 years ago in the Vale of York, counts Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose among its customers for the goats butter it produces.

St Helen's estimates that three out of 10 of the shoppers buying its products are not cows milk intolerant they buy its products because they like the taste and see them as healthier or involving higher animal welfare standards than cows milk.

"However, we feel the market is still victim to some misconceptions, such as people not realising that goats milk products are pasteurised to the same high standards as normal dairy products," says Mike Hind, sales and marketing manager. The market's other big producer, Delamere Dairy, is equally upbeat about the category's prospects. Its Somerset-produced Lightly Salted Goats Butter is stocked by Asda, Morrisons and Booths.

"When the category was launched some 15 years ago, sales of goats butter were slow," says Delamere spokeswoman Emma Kirkham. "UK consumers were put off because of the pure white colour and associated it with lard."

But thanks in part to the company's decision to add a small amount of natural carotene to its butter, giving it a creamy appearance preferred by shoppers, things have picked up. Sales were up 65% in 2010, says the spokeswoman, citing in-house research supporting St Helen's assertion that customers buy goats butter for health reasons, not because they are intolerant to cows milk.

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