Called Night Time Milk, it is made by a Somerset, UK dairy called Cricketer Farm which produces milk with higher than normal levels of melatonin from specially selected dairy herds.
Melatonin is a natural hormone that controls the body clock and helps regulate sleep patterns by reducing the body temperature to levels necessary for a good night's sleep. It is available as a supplement in the US and is taken by many to combat jet lag but in Europe a chemical form is regulated as a drug.
Cricketer Farm says it has tested numerous milk samples from different herds over recent months at the University of Surrey. This has helped them identify samples with higher levels of melatonin.
The dairy is asking customers at number three UK supermarket chain Sainsbury's, where the product has initially been launched, to try the milk for a two-week period and report any positive effects.
No human trials have been carried out by the company but it says that by guaranteeing higher levels of melatonin than regular milk, the new drink could help some of the 60 per cent of adults who regularly have trouble sleeping to nod off.
"A milky drink at bedtime in any respect has traditionally been recommended to help sleep. But regular milk generally has low levels of melatonin. We are going to monitor levels of the hormone in our milk and offer a product with higher melatonin content," Mike Hind, marketing manager for Cricketer Farm told NutraIngredients.com.
He admitted that the move is in many ways designed to add value to a commodity area.
But research shows there could be a need for more such products to help combat insomnia - over 12 million sleeping pill prescriptions are issued each year in the UK, according to the Sleep Council.
The dairy has been beaten to the market by Red Kite Farms which launched its Slumber Bedtime Milk at upmarket retailer Waitrose in 2002, also after cooperating with the University of Surrey. The product, which is organic and 'twice as expensive' as the newer Night Time Milk, rapidly exceeded forecast sales.
Finland's second dairy Ingman Foods also has a 'night time milk', launched in 1999 and thought to be reaching annual sales of 1 million litres.
"This suggests that in a much bigger population we could be selling up to six or seven times this amount," said Hines, although he added that his small-scale dairy would have limited opportunity for expansion.
The product is however entering the right market, with the biggest spenders on functional foods and drinks in Europe. The average Briton spent £110 (€157) a year on functional foods, according to Datamonitor, and the number of functional food consumers is set to exceed 5 million by 2007.