M&S store trials 'strawberry field'
Marks & Spencer has turned a shopping aisle into the next best thing to a strawberry field in a trial experts believe could herald the future of food retailing - just in time for Wimbledon.
Visitors to M&S's Marble Arch store in London this week will smell a berry mist as soon as they enter the store and then have the chance to pick fruit from plants growing on the shelves as part of an experiment into multi-sensory shopping.
It follows research by the University of London's Centre for the Study of the Senses last year that found the scent of strawberries can evoke feelings of summer and nostalgia.
British Summer Fruits (BSF), the industry body that commissioned the installation, believes shoppers could be picking their own fresh strawberries from plants growing on supermarket shelves within a few years.
BSF chairman Laurence Olins said: "The idea of having the fruit ripening in store so that consumers can pick them at their best and try the exceptional varieties could really help future sales.
"The soft fruit industry is at the forefront of innovation. Plant breeders raise tens of thousands of seedlings each year and only about 1% go forward for further trialling.
"The whittling down to just a single superstar berry will take up to 10 years, until the chosen one is presented to the supermarkets to test on their consumers."
M&S strawberry expert Andy Mitchell said: "The start of the British strawberry season is one of the highlights of the summer calendar and it's great to see that this very clever installation will really bring to life the many delicious qualities of our strawberries.
"We hope our customers enjoy it and are looking forward to seeing their reaction."
Existing growing technology means shoppers can buy British strawberries from as early as March through to December.
BSF predicts record sales of British strawberries of £325 million this year, beating the previous record of £275 million last year.
They are a staple of Wimbledon fortnight, and tennis fans can look forward to strawberries of a high quality and exceptional flavour following the light and warm winter, BSF said.
With strawberries and cream one of the best-known elements of the SW19 Grand Slam, at least 28 tonnes of strawberries are expected to be eaten over the championship, slathered with more than 7,000 litres of fresh cream.
Around 8,615 punnets will be consumed every day during the tournament.
The season conveniently reaches its peak during Wimbledon fortnight, hence the tradition of strawberries and cream on Centre Court.