Monday, May 20, 2019


Food styling emerging as vital marketing tool
Saturday, 06 January, 2007, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Dhwani Pandya, Mumbai
, and then tastes with his mouth," a saying which aptly describes the significance of food styling. Food styling is 'creating edible art on plate' which conveys the non-visual elements of taste and texture to a customer before the actual experience. In an increasingly competitive world, where packaging, labels, ad films and glossies are the ultimate decisive factors that affect consumer buying, food styling has become an integral marketing tool for the restaurants, processed and ready-to-eat food manufacturers.

As a profession, food styling relates to the visual camera appeal created by a food stylist for a magazine, advertisements, food packaging or television. With increased demand for processed food and booming retail, food styling coupled with packaging gives an extra boost to products at the point of purchase. Though not a very well known concept 10 years ago, now food styling has enticed the interest of many of the corporate. Mumbai-based Saba Gaziyani, a hotel management graduate and professional chef, inadvertently entered the world of food styling and now she is one of the most eminent food stylists and photographers in the industry. Her list of clients includes national biggies like Whirlpool, Godrej, LG, ITC, Amul, Gits, Sundrop Oil and international companies like Pizza Hut, Tiffany, Domino's Pizza, McDonald's, Heinz Ketchup. Saba Gaziyani spoke to Dhwani Pandya of Food & Beverage News on the emerging trend in food styling in the food industry, its relevance to modern food trade and her experiences. Excerpts:

How did the food styling concept strike you?

After finishing my degree in hotel management I was an executive chef trainee at 'Leela Kempinski' where later on I became junior chef. I was already doing something called food styling in the hotel, which I didn't realise then that I would take it up as a profession in the future. Eventually, I paid off my bond with the hotel and started doing freelancing as a food stylist. Though 10 years ago food styling was not a very recognised concept, I took up the challenge to satiate my creativity. I have been doing this for the past 10 years now. Since the last three years I have also been doing food photography along with food styling.

I already knew the food composition in terms of layout, background, the plates, the bowls, and everything. All that was required was to shoot it. So I thought of learning the science of photography, as art was already there within me. I did a small course in photography and the shooting while practising intensely in my studio to get perfect pictures. I feel, as a photographer, I can do better justice to a food shot rather than having another photographer who probably does not know about the food as much as I know.

As you said food styling was not a much known concept 10 years ago, how has it evolved in all these years?

Right from the beginning the food and appliances manufacturers were interested in the concept. Mostly food styling evolved more in terms of ad-films than a still photography. In films there was a more demand for styling and there they used to have live food shots, for example the roti has to be shown blowing, or live cooking of mutter paneer.

Appliance manufacturers like oven, refrigerator, mixer grinder, oil companies like Sundrop Oil were there right from the beginning who have used food styling in their ad-films. However, as using a professional food stylist was rare at that time they did not even know they could get someone who can do specifically this work.

It wasn't a known concept even abroad 10 years ago. It was probably coming up at that time, because of which Indians were getting more aware of it. But now the awareness about food styling has increased a lot. Again food styling & food photography is emerging as a new breed. Nowadays most of the food photographers are also food stylists. Now the clients are also very well aware about food styling and photography. They do not prefer any ordinary photographer for the shoot. They hire only those who know food photography as they know how to light the food, ie the part of the plate which is to be better lit for the shoot.

Styling does not only mean the garnishing of dish after it is ready but it also exists during the process, especially when food photographs are concerned. Styling happens right from the beginning, i.e. from selection of vegetables, cutting it evenly and also the ingredients, which go in to the preparation.

Do you think food styling has become an important marketing tool for food manufacturers?

Yes, in fact it can be considered more important than the advertisement because the first thing that hits the market is a pack. So, as the first eye contact of a customer with a product is through the pack it has to be very attractive. I always tell my clients that the first sale of their products happen because of my picture and the repeat sale will happen because of their product. The first buy of products is only because of its package. It's a challenge for the company to design a package, which is really very close to the actual product.

What has been the contribution of retail revolution in driving the demand for products with better and attractive packages?

Malls have helped a lot. In fact, the amount of visibility of a pack has increased by leaps and bounds. Previously any pack used to be in some far corner of the shop, but right now you see everything in front of you. Malls have really revolutionised the visibility of any kind of brand or pack.

What are the latest trends as far as styling food products is concerned?

Now the food is being styled in a way it should be served. It is very casually placed - neatly arranged to look disarranged. Now biscuits are not arranged in a flower shape, they can be stacked or they can be just placed randomly. So basically a very casual way of styling is in. Something very simple to which even a housewife can relate to.

Which has been the most successful product you had worked with? What made the difference?

One of my styled and photographed brands which is very successful in the ready-to-eat sector is ITC. Their two food brands include a premium and normal. The premium brand has been really given a royal look because of effective styling. The recently shot pictures for Prabhat poultry's chicken bacon has been a huge success in the Uppercrust Show, where they made huge profits because of the pack and of course the product.

How convenient and affordable is it for small manufacturing enterprises (SMEs) to approach food stylists and consultants for their product development?

Usually a food stylist and photographer charge for an image on the day-rate basis. Where as I charge for images on the per shot basis. People hesitate to approach a photographer or a stylist when they need only two or three pictures because they would end up paying for an entire day.

I have an entire studio with complete set up of props, lights and other things, so it helps me to charge them on per shot basis. In case someone needs any promotional material for just one poster, it's easier for him to approach me as I also do a single image for which I will not charge a day's cost. We don't compromise with quality of picture but still the customer gets it at a very nominal rate.
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