Soft drinks and sweetener producers are expected to launch a raft of products if herbal extract stevia is given the green light by EU chiefs later this year.

The sweetener, already used by drinks giants ­including Coca-Cola and PepsiCo in the US, has been given the nod by European food safety bodies including EFSA, and producers ­expect to secure parliamentary approval for its use within the EU before the end of this year.

Meanwhile, Stevia-based sweetener brands, including Truvia and Merisant-owned Purevia, have announced plans to enter the UK, and Tesco has applied to trademark the name Stevia Sweet. Pundits have predicted the soft drinks category will be next to use the herb. "Big players in the soft drinks market are likely to be among the first to react due to the relative ease of formulation," said Mintel director of trends and innovation David Jago. He added that the taste of stevia made it likely it would be included in new drink variants rather than in reformulated versions of existing ones.

Jago said much of the success of stevia in other markets was down to interest in natural foods. "Being able to say a product is natural can be seen as a bigger driver than low-calorie or low-sugar." Truvia has launched co-branded products with Coca-Cola in the US, including Vitaminwater Zero, which carries the line "sweetened with 100% natural Truvia" on pack.

This week, Silver Spoon unveiled its UK plans for Truvia sweetener powder, which it will be launching in the UK in November in 60 and 120-sachet packs and a jar containing 170 servings. The company, which is working with commodities giant Cargill to market the products, said it ­expected it to carry a small premium compared with artificial sweeteners.

Truvia would not be sold in tablets, said Cargill's Truvia global product line director Mark Brooks, as it was keen to keep it in as 'natural' a form as possible. Brooks said there would be co-branded products, but would not give details.