GILFORD — A new product has hit the local market: NOCA, a spiked still water or “boozy water” that comes in three flavors, Dragon Fruit Mango, Triple Berry, and Watermelon Lime.
Although it is bottled at a facility in Maryland, it is a New Hampshire-based product, conceived by a trio of UNH grads, one of whom grew up in Gilford.
Richard Roy, whose parents, Ted and Jen Roy, have operated the Water Street Cafe in Laconia since 1988, said NOCA is just one of many ideas he and his friends from college threw back and forth after graduating from the University of New Hampshire’s Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics.
Roy met Galen Hand and Alex Febonio in the Atkins Investment Group, a student group that manages an investment fund under the guidance of faculty instructors. The three became close friends who stayed in touch with each other after graduation when they went their separate ways — Roy going to Goldman Sachs in New York, Hand to an investment firm in Chicago, and Febonio to another in Boston.
“The easiest form of communication, naturally, was via text,” Roy said. “We constantly shot various entrepreneurial ventures and ideas back and forth in the group chat, hoping that one might stick.” He said most ideas were bad, some were good but too complicated or too costly, and then Hand came up with one that “was the first that didn’t feel out of reach, something we were all generally familiar with, and felt actionable enough and like there was a big enough demand for, to actually act upon,” he said.
As Roy tells it, Hand had been mowing his lawn and drank a spiked seltzer. The carbonation in the drink bothered his stomach and Hand thought, ‘Why hasn’t anyone come up with a non-carbonated version of this?”
Roy and Febonio bought into the idea of a “spiked seltzer without the bubbles” and, in an admittedly risky move, Roy quit his job at Goldman Sachs to move back to New Hampshire to develop the product with his two friends. He now lives in North Hampton.
Their UNH connections — various professors, mentors, and alumni — proved invaluable in translating the idea into a commercial product.
“One of our earliest supporters was Jude Blake, who chairs the board of directors of the Peter T. Paul College,” Roy said. “We also received support from Peter T. Paul himself.
“Getting to where we are today without the help and support system from UNH would have been impossible. Both Jude, Peter, and many other mentors, connections and friends (mainly people who have been there and have done it before) helped guide us from what was originally an idea to now a product distributed in over 500 stores across New Hampshire and Massachusetts,” Roy said.
NOCA is now available at Winnisquam Marine and the Looney Bin in Laconia, and at Gilford Mobil Mart. Other locations are listed on the website www.drinknoca.com.
Each can of NOCA has 95 calories and 4.5 percent alcohol by volume, with two grams of sugar and three grams of carbs. It has “absolutely nothing artificial and is naturally gluten-free,” Roy said.
NOCA’s only competition is Pura Still, a product that launched while they were preparing to go into production, but they took that as a good sign: It proved there was a demand for a spiked water with no carbonation. In a blind taste test that involved about 100 students at UNH, NOCA ranked roughly 60 percent higher than Pura Still, Roy said.
They are marketing the drink to millennials between 21 and 35 years old, as “everything but the bubbles.”