A stevia plant in a nursery at the Paraguayan Institute of Agrarian Technology in Caacupe.

London - Worried by warnings that we need to eat less sugar? There’s a new alternative — a naturally occurring product called Stevia, which is free from calories and carbohydrates and does not raise blood sugar.

Derived from the tropical stevia plant, it’s around 300 times sweeter than sugar and has been used as a sweetener in South America and Japan for years.

With the World Health Organisation insisting sugar should account for just five percent of our daily calorie intake, it looks set to become huge in the UK, too. As it has a slightly bitter, liquorice aftertaste, companies are seeking to make it more appealing.

Tropicana has launched a juice made with 50 percent stevia and 50 percent sugar, halving the calories per serving. Coca-Cola is also poised to launch its stevia-sweetened Coke alternative.

Laura Jones, a food science analyst at Mintel, said: “Consumers want to cut sugar, but not compromise on taste. They don’t want anything artificial, so the appeal of plant-derived products is much stronger.” - Daily Mail