It has been written about Milton Glaser that "if you listened to it, saw it, read it or, especially, if you ate it, there's a fair chance that Milton Glaser designed it." Food and Glaser's visual ideas have been famously intertwined for years; he designed--and originally wrote--New York Magazine's "Underground Gourmet" column; he went on to spearhead the "Cook's Catalog." Some of this year's most prominent cookbooks wear his jackets.

But he had never designed a whole supermarket.

Along came Sir James Goldsmith, European financial magnate with title and breeding, managing director of Generale Occidentale, a giant corporation with diverse interests in retailing, publishing, finance and natural resources (including the two-star Laurent Restaurant in Paris and L'Express Magazine), who wanted to revolutionize America's supermarkets.

They are "linear, plastic, neon-lit, unexciting," he complained, and he should know. He happens to own a few of them; in fact, the entire Grand Union chain, the country's eighth largest group of supermarkets, with 650 stores in 16 states.

So Goldsmith joined his appetite for change with Glaser's appetite for everything concerned with food and its artistry; in tandem they were satisfied with nothing less than a major redesign for about two-thirds of the chain. The result: Grand Union Food Markets.

"There was nothing in terms of the whole company" that Glaser didn't redesign--from advertising, to packaging, to logo, to layout, to content of the new Grand Unions. Samples of Glaser's brainchild include:

* Slick and pretty labels for Grand Union's house brand.

* Aisle signs denoting items in pictures, not words.

* Fixtures in graphic red and white, with lots of clean lines and wood everywhere for a softening effect.

* Well-trained and informed staff.

* Food boutiques around the store with names like "Pasta Place" (fresh pasta made on the spot), "Nice Cream" (homemade ice cream), "Just Baked" (baked goods including salt- and sugar-free items).

Hotlines for ordering ahead, picking up later.

A Food Market is, according to the company vernacular, "a new generation of food store." The Food Market is designed to bring together the most desirable aspects of old-fashioned food shops and the ultra-modern supermarket: small, high-quality purveyors offering the best meats, fish, poultry, vegetables and prepared foods as well as personal service, vast selection, space and convenience. In today's jargon it is a supermarket of food boutiques, in yesterday's a marketplace. And tomorrow, if Goldsmith and Glaser have their way, it is going to be the design of 431 Grand Unions