Chr Hansen says that the XPL-1 culture can enhance gel firmness by about 40 per cent, ensuring a creamier final product that is also low in fat. Through this development, the company claims it can help manufacturers reduce reliance on costly dairy ingredients like milk powder, as demand continues to outgrow supply. Chr Hansen says that product firmness is particularly important for manufacturing goods like sour cream toppings, which need to keep their shape for use on goods like cakes and baked goods. As well as cutting fermentation time for milk by about three hours, the XPL-1 culture bypasses the need for processors to use additives or stabilisers, meaning goods can be sold as clear label products, according to the group. The culture is the latest development in the company's 'Exact Plus' range of products, reflecting Chr Hansen's increased focus on the growing dairy cultures market worldwide. According to company figures, global sales of fermented milk and yoghurt products are growing at an annual rate of between two to six per cent, amounting to about 20m tonnes in volume. Karoline Kjaerulff, Chr Hansen's marketing manager for the Exact Plus range said the cultures launch would be a key step in tapping key and emerging markets for their products. "[The] US, Eastern Europe and Russia are some of our most important markets for the XPL-1 culture as the consumption of cultured milks is quite high in these areas," she stated. "We launch first in Russia and move on from there, and we have high expectations for growth." The culture will come in Chr Hansen's Direct Vat Set (DVS) packaging to ensure consistency and convenience in production, the group says. The XPL-1 is available as both frozen and freeze-dried culture. The company plans to add a frozen XPL-2 culture for phage rotation at the year's end. Dairy cultures are an area that has become increasingly important to the group. Earlier this month, the company announced a €40m investment, claimed to be the largest in its 130-year history, to construct a new plant for dairy cultures production. The new plant, situated just outside of Copenhagen, has been designed by the company to strengthen its position as one of the foremost suppliers of dairy cultures for food and beverage production. Chr Hansen claims that the site will cover the total yoghurt production in Europe, which amounts to approximately 10 million tons annually. Group chief executive officer Lars Frederiksen said the construction is vital in ensuring that the company's customers, particularly dairy processors, have a more stable supply of ingredients amongst growing uncertainty over the commodity prices. "This investment makes it possible for us to supply the global market with high quality products far-sightedly, fast and flexibly," he stated.