Champignons de Paris

I found this glossy ad inside the front cover of a food magazine (left). It’s an advertisement for champignons de paris, or agaricus bisporus, also known as.. good ole button mushrooms.

I’m not so sure about the need to give mushrooms a sexual appeal but I kind of like the idea of a mushroom ad. Wouldn’t you prefer to see ads for raw ingredients in magazines over junk food? What really intrigued me most though, is that no brand is actually promoted. It’s a simple, full-color ad promoting the most common of mushrooms, financed by the EU and the French government. That’s when my marketing curiosity got the better of me. I had to find out why the EU would subsidize a common mushroom campaign.

As it turns out, European mushroom growers weren’t benefiting from the health campaigns asking us to eat five servings of fruits and veggies each day. Consumers considered the lowly mushrooms at best to be used as an additional ingredient, or would outright forget that “buttons too, could be part of your fruit and vegetable program!” That was becoming a problem for France and its neighboring button mushroom producers.

In 2008, the “Mushroom Promotion Foundation” (MPF) was created to promote buttons produced in France, Spain, Belgium and Holland. All across Europe, the MPF’s job is to boast the three main qualities of the button mushroom: nutrition, delicious taste and ease of preparation. That was the main message in the ad I found above as well as the one in the 2009 campaign (right) driven by the Momentum group. The target audience for these ads is 25-49 year old women with at least one child. The 2009 campaign reach was 26 million people through ad placements in parenting magazines, lifestyle glossies and cooking magazines. The goal was that the target group would see one of the ads four times over the length of the campaign. Part of the MPF 2010 campaign includes a website with info and recipes, contextualized for each country, language and culture – hence the sexualization of mushrooms for the French campaign. I came across radio spots (a Dutch one here) and even clips on Youtube. I am guessing the 1999 TV commercials in France had the same promotional goal as the 2008-2011 magazine ads have today.

The campaign must have worked on some level because here I am writing about it. In fact, I even did a little research of my own last night on the little white fungus. I found out that the largest producers worldwide are the US followed by China, Holland and France  – France producing 200 000 tons of buttons yearly. The mushrooms were said to have first seen the day in Versailles under Louis XIV and later grew inside the Parisian catacombs (where they got their name “champignon de Paris”) in Napoleon’s era until they were sent away from the city. Eeeew! The table mushroom is well known for its vitamin D, B6 and C, copper and phosphorus properties but also for its antioxidants and for boosting the immune system. The agaricus bisporus is probably not quite as nutritious when swamped in a port reduction (one of our favorite recipes). 😉

Read more about the button mushroom’s nutrition facts here.


3 thoughts on “Champignons de Paris

  1. Intéressant Esther. Les champi j’aime les faire dorer à la poêle et les mélanger aux légumes ou mélanger à une salade froide. Ce que je trouve le plus drôle c’est qu’en français tu utilises “champignon” également pour désigner une maladie de peau. Funny.

    1. C’est vrai que c’est drôle de parler de champignons aux pieds .. ou ailleurs..berk! 😉

      Moi aussi j’adore les champignons même si j’achète les champis de paris en tout dernier.

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