UNIVERSITY students who designed and developed an organic oat milk product for a North East farm as part of their coursework could see their concept taken to market.
The Wilson family, who have a 2,000-acre organic farm set in the Northumberland National Park, were so impressed with the glass-bottled oat milk created by four Newcastle University students that they have started talking to contract packers in the drinks industry.
“Their product is remarkable, with its recyclable glass bottle design, beautiful branding and low carbon footprint, we fell in love with it straight away,” said Rebecca Wilson, whose husband Ross’ family have farmed the land in Ingram Valley since 1949.
“We are now looking for a contract packer to work with us and make this concept a reality, in the hope we can get this high-end milk, with an emphasis on its sustainability and provenance, on to the retailers’ shelves.”
The timing is perfect, given almost one quarter of Brits now choose plant-based milks and the UK has the highest internet search interest in the world for oat milk. In 2019, sales of oat milk grew by 686 percent, and have increased more than 1,946 percent over the last two years according to data released by the Good Food Institute and market research firm SPINS.
The Wilsons hope the provenance of their product will set it apart from milks already on the market.
Ingram Valley Farm sits on land formed over 480 million years ago with one of the cleanest rivers in the world, the River Breamish, running through its heart. Rebecca and Ross, together with his father Johnny, run a pasture-fed, outdoor-reared farm with sheep, prime lambs, beef cattle and red deer. There they grow organic oats and barley.
The Wilsons allowed four students reading Agribusiness Management at Newcastle University to use Ingram Valley Farm as the focus of their final year project. The group was given free rein to create a new product or develop a change in the way the farm runs its day to day business.
Charlotte Gregg, who has since graduated and secured a role as Area Manager for Aldi, said: “On a visit to Ingram Valley we walked to the top of the hills where the view was breath-taking, and we took a photograph. We knew then that we wanted to develop a product that captured the provenance of the farm.
“That photo is used on the glass bottle packaging of the oat milk and represents the incredible origin of the product, sourced sustainably and responsibly in one of the most beautiful landscapes of the UK.”
The Wilson’s land has been farmed sustainably for the last 6,000 years and is considered by experts to be one of the finest prehistoric landscapes in the country.
It contains remains from the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages, Romano-British and medieval periods and under a Heritage Partnership Agreement between the Wilsons and English Heritage in 2010, a total of 1,300 acres was scheduled as an ancient monument.
Last year Ingram Valley Farm became the first farm in the world to achieve certification to The Planet Mark, a programme that recognises commitment to the continuous improvement in sustainability, achieved by cutting carbon emissions through reductions in energy, waste, travel and procurement.
Ross, 40, said: “The oat milk really fits with our ethos and the students’ research proved to us that it has the potential to find its own niche in the growing market for milk alternatives.
“We are very proud of the work they presented to us and hope to find a contract packer, with the same values as ours, to take this concept and with our oats make it a saleable product.”