The Coca-Cola Company will launch a new flavored seltzer brand it is calling Aha in March 2020.
Taking aim at weakening brand LaCroix and Pepsi’s successful Bubly line, Aha will come in eight flavors, two of which — Citrus Green Tea and Black Cherry + Coffee — will contain 30 mg of caffeine, riding another trend and aiming at contenders such as Hi-Ball sparkling energy drink from Anheuser-Busch.
Aha, the brand’s biggest new release in a decade, will replace Coke’s Dasani sparkling water, which according to Shane Grant, president of Stills Business Unit for Coca-Cola North America, has underperformed.
Nielsen all-channel sales data in August put sparkling flavored water retail sales in the past 12 months at $2.45 billion. The segment is still tiny compared with carbonated soft drinks — $26.74 billion in sales in the same time period — but it represents a huge growth area. Against the backdrop of declining sales for soda, brands like Massachusetts-based Spindrift reported triple-digit spikes in the past year.
Coca-Cola is not new to the space, having purchased Southwest regional player Topo Chico and debuted flavored sparkling lines for Dasani and Smartwater.
“We’ve been in this category for a long time,” Grant said. “We know the category, have watched it carefully and seen it grow and fragment. This is one of the most dynamic segments in beverages, generating as much retail dollar growth as all other beverage segments combined.”
Half of the sales growth, he said, is in sparkling beverages, and he doesn’t anticipate that slowing down. Grant said consumers are looking to carbonated water for singular flavors, but also to serve different functions from simple refreshment to relaxation or energy enhancement. Consumers are looking for waters that are alkaline or that contain antioxidants or caffeine, and brands are exploring different ways to stand out.
What Aha won’t have, said Grant, is CBD, or cannabidiol, the second most prevalent active ingredient of cannabis and a cultish beverage ingredient right now hung up by lack of FDA regulatory decisions.
AHA will debut in an eight-pack of 12-ounce cans and in 16-ounce single cans, wth pricing in line with mainstream sparkling waters.