A water brand rapped for containing too much sugar is being reformulated with natural sweetener stevia.

SoBe V-Water made headlines last summer after the amount of sugar in the drink was increased in a rebranding. PepsiCo bottler Britvic is now stripping sugar out of the drink completely, replacing it with the herbal extract, approved for use in the EU late last year.

Production of the new drink began last week. Britvic is expected to launch it officially at the end of this month, with a £2m sampling-focused marketing campaign aimed at commuters.

The switch to stevia, which is about 400 times sweeter than sugar, enabled Britvic to cut the calorie count while appealing to people who wanted to avoid sugar and artificial ingredients, said the company.

Stevia has been used in SoBe drinks in the US since 2008. “It triggered a material increase in the rate of sale and the number of consumers buying into the category,” added Britvic marketing director Simon Stewart. “We believe stevia’s introduction will have a similar impact for us in Great Britain.”

The SoBe activity will herald the rollout of other stevia-based soft drinks in the UK, Mintel analyst Yannick Troalen predicted, tipping Coca-Cola to follow suit soon.

“The success of Fanta Still in France [which mixes stevia with sugar] has led to new product developments within the CCE portfolio. If the success is confirmed with Sprite and Nestea, it is likely they will be rolled out in the UK,” she said.

Vimto Soft Drinks is also developing products containing the sweetener, MD Jonathan Bye told The Grocer.

American soft drink supplier Zevia is also looking to bring its range of stevia-based soft drinks to the UK.

“We are currently working on the details,” said CEO Paddy Spence.