Thirst of its kind: UNH grads introduce new spiked still water

A new spiked still water — think of an alcoholic seltzer, but without the bubbles — is now available in more than 300 independently owned stores across New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

NOCA, which stands for “no carbonation,” comes in three flavors – dragon fruit mango, watermelon lime and triple berry. It contains 4.5 ABV, 95 calories, two grams of sugar, three grams of carbs and is free of any artificial ingredients. The water is filtered and features a fermented cane sugar base.

The story of the drink’s genesis came out of the desires of three friends to “take a risk” and launch a unique product of their own. College friends Alex Febonio, Galen Hand and Richard Roy all graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016 with plans to pursue careers in finance. But it wasn’t long before they decided they wanted to do something different.

“We all went to college … during the spiked seltzer boom. It was the big thing at the time, pretty much, because at the end of the day, it was a healthier option than soda due to its low sugar content,” Febonio said. “But then Galen said one day that he didn’t like carbonation. So we looked at what options there were on the market, and at the time, there was nothing.”

When the three friends realized there was a niche to be filled, they started asking friends and family members if they preferred carbonation.

“A lot of people actually came back to us, and said no,” he said. “They’d tell us that if they had the option to, they’d drink something that was still, but that also had the same health benefits. So then we just kind of ran with it. … All of the flavoring is natural or organic, with no preservatives. That plays a huge role in what you actually taste when you try the drink.”

Febonio said he, Hand and Roy spent considerable time in his apartment testing out different flavors. All three were members of the Atkins Investment Group at UNH during their college days, using their university connections to their advantage in starting their new business venture.

“We reached out to some alumni who were a huge help to us, [by] just advising us on how to raise capital and actually go to market with a product,” he said. “They actually [connected] us with Vital [Design] in Portsmouth, which did all of our can designs.”

The company is headquartered in Newmarket, but the drink and its cans are manufactured in Baltimore, by a company that NOCA has contracted with to produce them and ship them back up to the Granite State. Febonio said the group were also connected with Tyler Kelly of New Hampshire Distributors, who helped them branch out to get their product in several area convenience stores and corner stores.

You can easily find the nearest store to you that sells NOCA by visiting the website and entering your city or town zip code. Depending on the location, you can either get individual 12-ounce cans or boxed cases of six cans each.

The next steps, Febonio said, are for NOCA to appear in larger chain stores and supermarkets like Market Basket and Hannaford, and to eventually obtain enough funds to sell the product in even more states. In the meantime, Febonio said he or his two other co-founders go to nearly a dozen locations across the state each week to do samplings.

“We’re … at a table in a store and get people to engage with us and try it, and that seems to resonate with people,” he said. “I definitely think, especially when you’re just starting out with a new product, the samplings are important because you can get it in someone’s hands.”

— Matt Ingersoll

Visit drinknoca.com to find a store near you that sells NOCA. You can also find them on Facebook or Instagram @drinknoca for news and updates.

Upcoming tasting events
Thursday, July 18, 8 to 10 p.m.: Charlie’s Tap House, 9A Ocean Blvd., Hampton
Friday, July 19, 6 to 8 p.m.: Thompson Tavern, 421 Central Ave., Dover

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