Lefèvre-Utile Cookie Museum
Here’s a strange one. We were looking for something to do on our way back to Saumur…
…and I read in my guide book that there is an obscure château just past Nantes that houses the official corporate collection of LU cookie advertising. LU, now owned by giant snack conglomerate Mondelez International, makes the little rectangle butter cookies from Nantes, le petit-beurre.
The château looked innocuous enough from the outside.
Inside, we entered a wonderland of cookie advertising. They even had an original display case from the original store in Nantes.
LU is best know for its “petit-beurre” cookie created in 1886.
Here’s an original box from late 1800s.
The poster advertising from this time represents a very romantic Belle-Epoque style.
The “petit-beurre” really took off after it won first prize at the 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris. Here’s a tin cookie box printed with chromolithography.
In 1899, the LU company began using packaging designed by Czech artist Alphonse Mucha.
His art nouveau designs are stunning!
Throughout the museum, there are helpful explanations. Did you know that the petit beurre cookie has 4 pointed corners for the 4 seasons and 52 little “scallops” along the edges for the 52 weeks of the year? There are also 24 dots in the middle of the cookie for the 24 hours in the day and the calligraphie on the cookie was modeled after the writing of the creator’s grandmother. Who knew there was so much to read into a cookie.
Here’s a photo of the original LU factory in Nantes. The corner tower still stands, welcoming visitors to the Lieu Unique, an art exposition and events space in the heart of Nantes.
In 1968, the Brun cookie company of Grenoble merged with LU, ending a decades long rivalry. The Brun butter cookies have shape similar to that of the petit-beurre, but a totally different flavor. Vive la différence!
Throughout the exhibit, you can follow the history of advertising from the mid-1800s…
… to the turn of the century…
… to the 1920s and use of photography with a sort of German Expressionist feel (think Fritz Lang’s Metropolis)…
… all the way to the 1980s and the 100th anniversary of the petit-beurre.
I especially liked the collection of original artwork that includes the LU brand. I would give my left ear for this painting of the famous Parisian confections shop by André Renoux.
They have a little bit of everything: paintings, photography, sculpture and toys.
The space is beautiful as well. I would say that it is worth a visit, but the collection of art and advertising is going back to its corporate owners at the end of 2019.
They are taking everything off display except for this gem. This one is going in my private collection!