Marks and Spencer’s milk suppliers look set to be the first UK dairy producers to benefit from a premium for supplying milk with reduced saturated fat levels.

The supermarket has announced it will be the first UK retailer to offer customers naturally lower fat milk, which is set to benefit both shoppers and dairy cows. As a result, a new farmer milk contract will recognise any additional costs associated with achieving the saturated fat reduction.

The milk, which will contain 6% less saturated fat, will be on sale in the supermarket’s stores from October this year.

The move follows extensive trial work involving Reading University, select M&S farms and consumer research. The aim was to deliver milk with less saturated fat, while bringing environmental benefits, improving cow health and welfare and retaining the same taste and quality.

Findings demonstrated improvements in cow fertility and cow appearance, with animals having glossier coats and expressing calmer behaviour. The new strategy also had environmental benefits, removing palm oil from the cow’s diets and thus saving more than 1,000t palm oil a year. Consumer research also suggested the milk tasted creamier.

Sue Bell, M&S technical executive, said: “We’re delighted with the results of the trial; our new milk is a win-win recipe – it has less saturated fat, but actually tastes better and there is less impact on the environment due to the reduction in palm oil.

“Our farmer’s cows are also healthier and our farmers will benefit from a guaranteed price for their milk.”

The trial was funded by the M&S Plan A innovation fund – Plan A is the retailer’s eco and ethical plan to become the world’s most sustainable retailer by 2015.