James Quincey, the CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, speaks during an interview with CNBC on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange, December 9, 2019.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey said that the beverage giant waited too long to make a sparkling water brand.

“We should’ve done AHA, yeah, sooner,” Quincey said at the Beverage-Digest Future Smarts conference on Monday.

Coke is readying itself for its first new brand launch in more than a decade. The company will launch AHA on March 2 in the United States, with the potential to expand globally.

As soda consumption falls, flavored sparkling water or seltzer has become a popular alternative for consumers. In 2018, bottled sparkling water volume grew by 6% to 531 million gallons, according to data from Beverage Marketing.

Coke’s rival PepsiCo expects that its Bubly sparkling water brand, launched in 2018, will become one of its next billion-dollar brands.

AHA, which will differentiate itself by having a jolt of caffeine, is not Coke’s first entrance into sparkling water, but it is its first effort to challenge Bubly and National Beverage‘s LaCroix head on.

The Atlanta-based company launched Dasani’s line of sparkling water in 2014, which will be replaced by AHA in retail stores. In 2015, Coke also launched a sparkling version of Smartwater. Coke will also introduce flavors to its nonsparkling Smartwater drinks in 2020. In 2017, it acquired Topo Chico, a sparkling mineral water brand with a cult following in Mexico and Texas.

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