Setting trends rather than following them has enabled Richard and Lynn Beard to

capitalise on niche markets for new products ahead of the major multiples.

When the couple began supplying unpasteurised goats milk and yoghurt to health food and wholefood shops through a wholesaler at the start of the 1990s they were unavailable in the large supermarkets.

And now that goat dairy products have gone mainstream, the couple are offering goat meat, in raw and cooked form.

Unlike the adult, cull carcases favoured by ethnic communities, this is mild tasting, lean and tender kid meat from home-bred animals aged up to four months, sold to a growing number of well-travelled and health- conscious 'foodie' customers.

The family business started 30 years ago as a hobby for Lynn went commercial when the couple met 15 years ago. It has since grown from a herd of 25 to 350 animals, and three years ago they moved from four acres in Kent to 50 acres in mid-Wales.

Now, with their son and daughter, they produce up to 250 gallons of milk per day, almost all of which is used to make 15 types of cheese. They also produce 50 500ml pots of set yoghurt a week for farmers' markets and goats' milk quiches.

But it is the meat side of the business, based on 'unwanted' male billy goats born to the herd, that is about to expand, with a national wholesaler interested in their products.

On offer are raw meat, sausages, pies and ready meals, as well as Caprito, a ready-to-eat salami-style nibble.

Low-cholesterol goat meat, called chevon, retails at £6/kg for mince, £9/kg for legs and £15/kg for leg steaks and chops. The company now sells up to 400 kids per year, each at 9kg dead weight.

Cothi Valley, with turnover at £150,000 a year, up from £40,000 five years ago, is in the process of investing £250,000 in a new parlour and processing rooms for next summer.

The Beards hope to reduce their reliance on up to six farmers' markets a week, because they can be affected by bad weather, to reach a wider market through a retail chain, but not one of the big four multiples.

"If a medium-sized chain such as the Co-operative Group, Budgens or Waitrose were to approach us, we would be very interested," said Richard Beard, "because it would mean that we could take on extra people and lessen our reliance on markets."