Skip to main content

Beyond consumerism: Making drinks to make community

Our Beyond Consumerism features seek out ideas big and small, for rethinking economic systems and reducing reliance on corporations.

We talk to Comunità Frizzante, a participatory fizzy drinks maker in Italy.

What is Comunità Frizzante?

Comunità Frizzante literally means ‘sparkling community’. Our slogan is “making drinks to make community”.

We are a network of different organisations and less formal groups, who are passionate about this region – the Vallagarina valley in the Italian Alps. For three years, we have worked on inventing, handcrafting and selling fizzy drinks. In each step of the process, we focus on participation and respecting the ecology around us, from coming up with the ideas and producing the drinks to thinking about circulating them and reinvesting any money we make.

We use the drink production process to cultivate relationships, stimulate local knowledge and increase the sense of belonging to Vallagarina.

How do you work with the local community to challenge the damaging practices so often seen in the soft drinks sector?

We use the participatory production of drinks as a tool to challenge individualised ways of life and alienation from the mountains we live in.

Each bottle of fizzy drink that we hand-craft – only around 12,000 a year – carries multiple stories. We make the whole cycle a participatory adventure creating relationships, which positively contribute to the life of people and nature in our area. We have, for instance, run community brainstorming sessions to think together about what kind of taste our valleys have, but also crucially about what kind of taste we want them to have.

Are we happy with the monocultures, whose scent of pesticides hangs in the air for months? Do we appreciate the wide range of alpine herbs growing in the collectively managed meadows? We then also go on picking trips with members of the local community, mix experimental flavours and come up with the name and graphics of the drinks in public workshops.

Three bottles of fizzy drinks on stone wall outside
Image (C) Comunità Frizzante

What are the stories behind some of your products?

We produce an orangeade from the leftover orange pulp from a local bakery. The candied fruit comes from organic oranges cultivated by our Southern Italian friends SOS Rosarno, who fight against the extreme exploitation of undocumented workers in the citrus fruit industry.

Our most local flavour is based on grapes and elderflower: we use it to question the vine monocultures invading our valleys while campaigning for regenerative agriculture.

We have also worked all of last summer with a village community to craft their own flavour, which resulted in a new tonic drink based on cornelian cherry, wormwood, mugwort and juniper. This is probably our most experimental bottled drink to this day, using the flavoured syrups to mix it on site at local events.

Why do you think creating these kinds of alternative economies is so important?

We consider the economy a space that exists in relation to the world, communities and ecologies around us. It should sustain people’s livelihoods, while contributing to people’s and earth’s well-being.

This idea is not yet mainstream.

For us it is important to show that the economy is what we make of it and that we can start wherever we are to take it back from ideas of profit, growth and exploitation.

We also love to see what happens when we break down the roles assigned to us in a capitalist society, for example, which divide producers from retailers from consumers. What happens if we are all in it together and engage in honest horizontal conversations?

Tips and ideas for those wishing to set up similar projects

Try to get out of the mindset of competition and look for allies in unexpected places. With Comunità Frizzante we don’t possess any production or working facilities. Instead, we’ve created an alliance with a social cooperative running a food production laboratory, which we can use two days per month for our own work.

Our ‘office’ space is a table in a community academy that we have helped set up at our local train station together with other citizen groups and cultural associations. Experimenting with the logic that we all fertilize each other through our different capacities and resources – like plants in a permaculture garden – really works wonders.