Intangible heritage safeguarding and commercialisation have long been considered at odds but that isn't always true. AlpFoodway partners mapped 114 cases across the Alps and identified the conditions for a respectful and sustainable commercialisation of ICH consistent products and experiences.

The first principle is that individual, groups and organisations who are heritage holders should – through appropriate governance mechanisms – decide the level of commercial valorization they desire. Some ICH elements do not necessary lend themselves to commercial exploitation – they can and should remain protected from the market and touristic spheres if the community so desires. Yet, as the cases of successful ICH valorization gathered and analysed in the context of the AlpFoodway projetc show, cultural heritage and marketing can go hand in hand by providing livelihood opportunities to new generations, thus ensuring sustainable safeguarding of an area’s living food traditions.

The second principle is that commercial valorization can be a double-edged sword: it can valorize ICH in appropriate doses, but too much of it can cause harm (for example, but staging experiences that are just spectacles for tourists or creating ‘soulless’ industrial versions of ICH-consistent products). Valorising food ICH thus means finding the right balance between the two extremes of missed opportunities and of over-commercialisation.

To succeed in this endeavor it’s important that:

  1. the community is involved in commercial valorisation choices and benefits economically from its own heritage;
  2. the interests of different subjects are taken into account so not to dilute or distort the meanings associated with ICH foods;
  3. communities join forces and set up effective collective marketing actions.

These are only some of the findings of the first WP2 deliverable, which you can find here.

At present, AlpFoodway researchers are completing fieldwork and are analysing market responses and consumer meanings through a digital ethnography of Instagram posts and Tripadvisor reviews.