As Fortnum & Mason looks forward to its revamp in October, and food grows ever more fashionable, what can upmarket food retailers learn about product presentation from purveyors of haute couture?

Block it, spotlight it, make it look cherished. In Japanese food halls, Wagyu steaks are displayed in groups of four, with clear space between them on three-inch-thick teak slabs. Each one is picked out by a focused colour- enhancing LED, like some bejewelled handbag. Behind them a ‘steak’ consultant waits to help you like a Prada accessory advisor.
Steve Collis, Joint managing director, JHP

Food as theatre is not a new phenomenon. Farmers’ markets have been putting on ‘shows’ every season for centuries. What has changed is the stage – from the stall to the bright lights. Like haute couture houses and high-end jewellery retailers, upmarket food retailers are learning the art of understatement, both in terms of discreet branding as well as editing – spotlighting key individual products rather than displaying all. In addition, they are building in-store and on-pack stories about ingredients, quality and provenance, and romancing the beauty of the food and the eating experience through luxurious typography and photography.
Tamara Williams, Parker Williams Design


Food and drink are a lifestyle choice, so presentation and packaging need to reflect consumers’ aspirations. Trends, such as the move to organics, show people are becoming more health and environment-conscious. In a busy, colourful market, consumers look to brands they can trust. Distinctive design helps define brands, adds value and signals quality. Like haute couture, buying ‘designer’ food brands expresses aspects of the consumer’s status, style and affluence.
Sue Balsom, Managing director, FBA Group, PR agency for Rachel’s Organic

We all wait suspended on meat tenterhooks for the opening of the refurbished Fortnum & Mason. We want to wallow in the

opulence of fine food and the cornucopia of grandeur. However, I don’t think food retailers can learn much from haute couture about product presentation. I can’t see the appeal of five lemons, beautifully lit, hanging on a stainless-steel, amorphous armature or a single cabbage perched precisely on a bed of folded felt. Or maybe I can – it’s all retail theatre, isn’t it?
Gabriel Murray, Director, Studio 48

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