Emmi said it had bought a minority stake in the US start-up, Contract Aseptic and Speciality Packaging (CASP), which specialises in aseptic production of dairy products. The move is part of Emmi's ongoing international expansion plan in fresh dairy, and comes after a year of promising growth for the group outside of Switzerland. Emmi increased sales by 15 per cent to CH2.3m (€1.4m) in 2006. The rise included a 15 per cent rise in fresh product sales, largely thanks to the firm's takeover of Italian yoghurt producer Trentinalatte last July. Health and wellness trends also lifted the group at home and abroad, it said, echoing similar comments from Nestle and Danone recently. In cheese, long a central pillar in Emmi's business, the story was more mixed. Speciality cheeses, such as Le Gruyère, Kaltbach and Tête-de-Moine, performed well, helping the firm's fresh cheese division to increase sales by five per cent. The result adds weight to predictions by European dairy industry leaders and the European Commission that added value and speciality products will lead the EU dairy sector forward in the coming years. Away from fresh cheese, however, sales in Emmi's cheese business slipped two per cent during the year. Problems at home, including a mild winter and "cut-throat competition" from international players in processed cheese, hampered progress, the firm said.