The firm said its new probiotic sticks contain either BB-12 or a mix of BB-12 and LGG strains, two of the best documented probiotic strains. The products, which have been introduced by the company's Health & Nutrition business, are designed for direct use by consumers, and are marketed as easy to use and easy to store, due to their small size (25x90mm) and their ability to be kept at room temperature. The sticks contain a small amount of powder, which can be mixed into children's food or drinks - either cold or lukewarm - and come in a neutral or mild vanilla taste. This, said the firm, helps overcome one of the main problems when designing dietary supplements for children, who do not always take kindly to the feel and taste of many supplements. "We are confident that the market will welcome this new product as it offers benefits to customers as well as parents and their children" said Tine Westerdahl, head of marketing in Chr Hansen's Health & Nutrition Division. Westerdahl told NutraIngredients.com that although this particular probiotic mix would not be ideal for use by food manufacturers, Chr Hansen "would probably be able to find solutions for the BB-12 and LGG mix for use in industrial applications." The company already supplies the manufacturing sector with strains of BB-12 for use in food products, particularly dairy. Probiotics remain a major growth market and most of the major European dairy and ingredients groups believe that they will be one of the dairy sector's major growth drivers over the next few years. According to Frost & Sullivan, the European sector is set to more than triple in value over the next few years, to reach $137.9m (€118.5m) in 2010. Global consumers increasingly look for probiotic dietary supplements to promote general well-being. The global retail market for probiotic dietary supplements experienced a 46.9 per cent growth between 2002 and 2005. A growth of 32.6 per cent is predicted through 2010 (Euromonitor International). Chr Hansen's move is further indication of its confidence in the market for probiotics for children. In August this year, the company said this field is a largely untapped market in Europe and could be another outlet for the use of the bacteria in human health. At the time it announced an agreement for its probiotic ingredients to be used in supplements marketed for children in Italy. The partnership with the Italian firm Pediatrica will see strains BB-12, TH-4 and CRL-431 put into supplements in that country. "We experience a growing interest in probiotic solutions for children. Our new stick caters to a need for a natural and easy way to present children with probiotics. Several clinical studies show a beneficial effect on both children's immune system and their gastrointestinal well-being. But also adults can benefit from this new product," said Westerdahl yesterday.