It is January, which method Girl scout cookie season 2019 has actually officially begun, an annual tradition in i beg your pardon brigades of girls in earth-toned uniforms hawk boxes of cookies to family, friends, and strangers. However unlike most fundraising initiatives — nationwide Public Radio, because that example, or elementary college wrapping file sales — Girl reconnaissance Cookies are beloved. They room beloved favor apple pie is beloved, or puppies.

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Girl scout cookies room a triumph: the marketing, of cookie-baking, the youthful entrepreneurship. Between January and April every year, the much more than one million scouts in the U.S. Sell around 200 million crate of the cookies, Fortune recently reported. Exactly how much is that, in cookie terms? Girl enlightenment cookie sales optimal Oreos. They optimal Chips Ahoy and Milano combined. For basic comparison’s sake, the entire populace of America is just 325.7 million. Room we the excited around young women marketing things? are Trefoils the good? What is walking on?

To unpack this mystery, let’s start with the very basic facts.

The simple facts the Girl scout cookies

Toward a history of Girl scout Cookies, homemade sugar cookie to S’mores

The recorded history of Girl Scout cookie dates earlier to 1917 — five years after the company was started — once a troop of Girl Scouts in Muskogee, Oklahoma, hosted a cookie sale in your high school cafeteria together a method to fund troop activities. Yet the original cookies were home-baked, just consistent cookie-cookies. Word spread; a convoy in Connecticut started selling, and also then a troop in Massachusetts.

In July 1922, the American Girl magazine published a cooking recipes for straightforward sugar cookies, intended because that troop sales. The a pretty basic recipe: butter, sugar, flour, eggs. Ingredients cost in between 26 and also 36 cents and also would yield six or 7 dozen cookies, which, the publication suggested, can be marketed door to door for 25 come 30 cent per dozen.


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GSUSA
As Atlas Obscura clues out, the simplicity was important due to the fact that the scouts were baking the cookie themselves. However even ago in the bootstrapping olden days, older and savvier family members may have been involved. “Grandma used to roasted the cookies,” a then-83-year-old previous Girl Scout said Time. “I was never the kitchen cooker, I remained outside.”

The era of house baking didn’t critical long: In 1934, the Girl Scouts of better Philadelphia Council marketed the very first commercially small version. 2 years later, the nationwide Girl Scout organization switched to commercial bakers, and also that to be the end of the Girl scout baking era. In 1939 — a historical year for cookies — the Girl Scouts introduced the “first-ever iteration the the thin Mint, then called ‘Cooky-Mints,’” Time says, noting the in the years that followed, the trim mint-chocolate cookie went through a totality roster of minty names, including cacao Mint, slim Mint, Cookie Mint, and then chocolate Mint (again), thin Mints, slim Mint (singular!), and also then earlier to slim Mints once more.

(There to be a brief cookie hiatus during human being War II, once flour, sugar, and also butter shortages led the Girl Scouts come pivot away from cookies and also toward calendars, but one that the much less heralded perks of the war’s finish was the they to be able to return to cookies.)

By 1951, the simple cookie lineup had actually been finalized, reports Smithsonian: a sandwich cookie, a shortbread cookie, and a thin Mint/Thin Mints/Chocolate Mint variety, which is tho the No. 1 best-seller, probably due to the fact that it is the best.

At one point in the so late ’40s, there to be 29 various bakeries making Girl scout cookies. But by the ’60s, the Girl Scouts trimmed their team of license is granted bakers come 14, because that the services of cookie continuity. Through the late ’70s, they were down to four, and by the 1990s, the Girl Scouts had winnowed the field again, come two.


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Girl Scouts marketing cookies at a cookie stand. GSUSA
Not all cookies have actually been lasting hits. Shortbread (also well-known as Trefoils) and also Thin Mints space enduring classics. Various other cookies have been lost to time. Kookaburras — the “lovechild the a Rice Krispies treat and a Twix bar,” recalls a wistful psychological Floss article — came and also went in the ’80s. Golden Yangles, an experimental cheese cracker, to be excised indigenous the lineup in 1992.

“The decision around cookie arrays for each Girl enlightenment Cookie season is a an answer to customer trends and feedback, as well as sales,” Stewart Goodbody, manager of interactions Girl Scouts the the USA, said the Washington Post. The reduced-fat apologize Cinnamons and Olé Olés the the ultra-low-fat ’90s space a relic of their era; currently we have actually Toffee-tastics and, this year, Caramel cacao Chip Cookies, both that which space gluten-free.

Which cookies you get — and also what those cookie taste prefer — counts on where you live

Today, Girl Scout cookies are developed by two bakeries: abc Bakers and tiny Brownie Bakers. This is why near-identical cookie have various names — why some human being know chocolate-striped coconut-caramel rings together “Samoas” (a product of tiny Brownie Bakers) and also others understand them together “Caramel deLites” (a product of abc Bakers).


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alphabet Bakers’ variation of the S’mores cookie. GSUSA
In Detroit, you gain Tagalongs, small Brownie’s entry right into the peanut butter/chocolate cookie canon. But in Chicago, you obtain Peanut Butter Patties, by alphabet Bakers, instead. Are the cookies the same? In spirit, yes. In reality, there room slight sports in the recipes, noticeable on the nutritional panel, and additionally by looking at it. Even cookies that go by the exact same name nationwide — a slim Mint is always a slim Mint — taste different relying on who renders them.

The Los Angeles Times, which has actually meticulously tracked the geographic differences between cookies, describes that an alphabet Bakers thin Mint is “crunchier, with more mint than chocolate in each bite,” if the little Brownie Bakers cookie — quiet a slim Mint! — has a “richer smoother coco coating” v a “distinct peppermint taste.” Or think about the S’mores cookie, a 2017 enhancement to the Girl enlightenment cookie canon, i beg your pardon is, in fact, two distinctive cookies that share one name.

According come the brand-new York Times, the GSUSA presented the idea for the S’more come both bakeries, which developed their own cookie-fied versions of the campfire classic. (As the Girl Scouts’ FAQ cookie web page says, “There’s no wrong way to eat s’mores!”) The alphabet S’more, every the LA time analysis, is a chocolate-covered square with a “faint vanilla/marshmallow layer” and also a larger graham cracker portion. The little Brownie variation, however, is a blond-looking sandwich cookie filled with a class of chocolate and also another the “marshmallowlike icing,” published with the clarifying native “Girl scout S’mores.”


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small Brownie Bakers’ version of the S’mores cookie. GSUSA
Some cookies, meanwhile, room only accessible through one baker or the other. There is no exact tiny Brownie identical of ABC’s Thanks-a-Lots, shortbread rounds through fudge bottoms, and also no specific ABC translate of small Brownie’s gluten-free Toffee-tastic cookies, back this year, abc launched another gluten-free offering, a caramel chocolate chip melange. Each baker, a Girl reconnaissance spokesperson said the Washington Post, can offer as much as eight varieties; as brand-new cookies come, old cookie go.

ABC Bakers is based in Richmond, Virginia; small Brownie Bakers in Louisville, Kentucky. And so one might imagine the this would certainly somehow inform which cookies are sold where. But this would be a mistake. As the LA time map shows, the two bakeries’ cookies present up all over the country: components of Kentucky, residence of small Brownie, usage ABC, and the seaside tip that Virginia, which is generally ABC turf, uses tiny Brownie. That’s because it’s up to the troops themselves which bakery to use: Each regional council — there room 112, nationwide — choose which baker to contract with, and by extension, which version of slim Mints girlfriend get.

Girl scout cookies are an $800 million business

How large is the cookie business? happiness spells it out: throughout prime cookie season, the nation’s Girl Scouts — an ext than one million of them — do about $800 million in total cookie sales.

For the remainder of the cookie market, Girl enlightenment cookie season is one inevitable reality of life. “The annual Girl scout cookie revenue is a force of nature in ~ the national level,” john Frank, a Mintel food analyst, told USA Today. “Big companies like Kraft know it’s coming, and also they’ve learned come live through it. It’s choose a storm and also there’s nothing they have the right to do but wait for it to pass, because there is no upside come marketing versus the Girl Scouts.”

The staggering sales, as the Girl Scout products are fond that pointing out, make the cookie routine the “largest financial investment in girls annually in the joined States.”

Because each local council set its own prices, the cost of a crate of cookies relies on the realities the your local market. In 2017, the price jumped overall, with many areas seeing boxes go from $3.50 or $4 to a cool $5. (This year’s gluten-free Caramel coco Chips may cost a tiny bit more, come “offset high production costs,” the brand-new York article reports.)


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Girl Scouts preparing to market their stock. GSUSA
“All of the net revenue indigenous cookie sales — 100 percent of that — remains within a Girl enlightenment council’s regional area to benefit girls and their council,” a Girl enlightenment rep assured Bustle. The proceeds are split in between the council — which accumulation things favor summer camps and also adult volunteer trainings, and coveted cookie-selling prizes — and the details troop, wherein it goes toward tasks and projects. A usual model is “spend a little, save a little, re-superstructure a little,” Goodbody said me. Making these decisions as a group is an important part of the process.

How exactly the earnings get split is again approximately the local council, yet for a instance study, let’s turn to the Girl Scouts of west Pennsylvania, who breakdown their financials like this:

50 percent goes come council-sponsored programs, events, properties, training, and scholarships.24 percent goes to the expense of the cookies.23 percent goes to troop proceeds, girl recognitions, and service unit bonuses.3 percent goes come the price of Cookie program support.

Managing list is important. The logistics of notified cookie share — taking preorders versus buying cookies in advance to have actually ready ~ above the spot — is a science and also an art. There are door-to-door sales. There are booth sales, whereby troops set up cookie pop-ups at well-traversed locations. (Would you prefer to discover a booth close to you? The Girl Scouts have an application for that.) There are sales online.

Troops purchase the share they offer — if a girl has boxes come sell, she or her family members bought those boxes — which means it is key to actually offer them. What to carry out with unsold cookie is a renowned topic on parental message boards.

It’s not just about the cookies

“I have the right to say this until I’m blue in the face,” Goodbody speak me, “but it’s about so much an ext than cookies.” She points out that more than fifty percent of “female entrepreneurs and business owners space Girl reconnaissance alums,” according to data native the Girl Scout study Institute. In the 2018 midterms, she notes, “the bulk of females” chosen to Congress were Girl Scouts once.

“This is the first career move for numerous girls,” she says. Because that a 5- or 6- or 7-year-old, that a huge deal to feel in manage of anything, given that, in ~ 5 or 6 or 7, girlfriend aren’t also in control of when you go to bed. “People are telling friend what to carry out all the time and also here you are taking care of money and deciding where that money is going come go and also figuring out just how to industry yourself and your product come customers.”

The Girl Scouts’ official products credit cookie sales because that instilling girls v five necessary skills: goal-setting, decision-making, money management, people skills, and also business ethics. “Don’t take it ‘no’ because that an answer, press ahead and also see the enlarge picture,” says Katelyn, a “cookie entrepreneur” quoted ~ above the site.


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Girl Scouts walk door to door. GSUSA
“Selling cookie is commonly a girl’s first exposure to the human being of business,” Frances Hesselbein, then the nationwide executive director of the Girl Scouts, called the new York Times. “She learns just how to satisfy the public, talk around a product, offer the product and also is responsible for collecting money, giving adjust and transferring the product. That’s rather a organization venture for a 7-year-old.’’

In the Washington Post, Kelly Richmond Pope, when a Girl Scout, currently a professor that forensic accounting, recalls “long weekends of walking door come door v my parents, working on mine ‘cookie elevator pitch’ in between houses. I knew which residences were basic sells and also which were tougher. I didn’t realize at the moment that i was learning marketing strategy in enhancement to sales.” She go on to credit selling cookies v teaching she “how to stand up to the temptation come embezzle” — a great lesson for us all! — to collection realistic goals, and to take responsibility for she work.

“I want to it is in a neurosurgeon,” Miranda, a 15-year-old Girl Scout indigenous Brooklyn, said Fortune in between cookie transactions. “As a girl scout, ns am able come execute a plan, so once I’m a neurosurgeon and also I desire to gain into the brain, I need to execute a plan.”


Is over there something possibly vaguely sinister about celebrating the sixth-grader who put in “11-, 12-, 13-hour days” peddling cookies? through all early out respect: yes. Would it be nice to have a group organization because that girls the did not lean rather so heavily on building character by offering things on behalf of a major corporation? likewise yes. In ~ the exact same time, the cookie routine is fantastic preparation because that the world that in reality exists. “When girlfriend know exactly how to offer something, you’re sort of set for life,” Goodbody says. The is tough to argue.

Of course, all this hinges on one vital detail: The girls need to be the ones actually doing the selling. Except that if you room a person who works in one office v adults, you recognize this is not constantly how the goes.

“You currently know exactly how this happens. You’re sit at her desk, or pushing your cart through the grocery store, thinking around spring, when a sheepish parental sidles increase — and he’s not even wearing a Girl enlightenment uniform. The next thing friend know, you’ve agreed to take distribution of 3 boxes that Trefoils,” lamented KJ Dell’Antonia in the brand-new York Times. “It’s a freaking racket,” one Colorado mom told Thrillist. “I need to say, I sort of dread Girl enlightenment Cookie season. That a the majority of work because that me!”

The Girl Scouts, for your part, execute not condone this practice. “A girl,” Goodbody says, “is always supposed to initiate the sale.” follow to the organization, delegating your parents to foist cookies on your colleagues does not constitute “executing a plan.”


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A Girl Scout selling her own cookies. GSUSA
Fears around losing the program’s education edge led the Girl Scouts to question launching sales online. Yet for the 2015 season, Girl Scouts of the USA launched the “Digital Cookie” platform, which enables online sales (teaching “vital entrepreneurial class in virtual marketing, application use, and also e-commerce”). The twist is the you have the right to only to buy cookies with a girl’s an individual cookie website. And also to accessibility it, a potential customer needs a digital invite from a participating Girl Scout, which method you need a link to an yes, really Girl Scout, perhaps due to the fact that you are related to her. (Girl Scouts room not claimed to pass the end their cookie URL to strangers, for safety and security reasons.)

There is one small loophole in the system: Amazon. But while girlfriend can technically buy castle online, without interacting with a solitary girl, the Girl Scouts of the USA would strongly like you execute not.

Girl enlightenment cookies space a comforting tradition

Girl Scout cookies do have actually detractors. Besides exasperated parents, over there are health and wellness advocates who object to the cookies, ~ above the grounds that they’re cookies. “Girl reconnaissance cookies are just one more sign the the difficulty of hyperconsumption,” pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig called NPR. “This is simply another component of this toxicity food chain that kids are awash in,” Susan Rubin, a dentist turned nutritionist and former troop leader, said the new York Times. “At part point, neighborhoods are going to have to walk away from the Do-Si-Dos.”

But we haven’t. Human being love Girl reconnaissance cookies. Part of that is the taste; they room eminently edible, because they room cookies. Part of the is the nostalgia. They repeat you that childhood, just how you as soon as were a Girl Scout, or knew a Girl Scout, or ate cookies. Lock are basic and pure.

“The Girl reconnaissance cookie is a piece of Americana,” Goodbody says. There is a photo in the Girl enlightenment archives of elegant Coolidge eating Girl Scout cookie on the White residence lawn.

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first lady grace Coolidge eat a Girl scout cookie top top the White house lawn. Library the Congress, Harris & Ewing photo collection lock are also pleasantly limited. “Girl enlightenment cookies only come around once a year,” harry Balzer, a national food expert at the NPD group research firm, said USA Today, “and they’re very much like Halloween is to candy and Thanksgiving is to turkey.”

To Goodbody, a large part that the very nice is civic-minded: civilization want to assistance the girls themselves. “You want to her to succeed, and also you want to answer in a way that’s walk to develop her an abilities so that she’s confident and also continues to take that risk and also knock ~ above the next door.”

Girl reconnaissance cookies are not the ideal kind of cookies. Yet it no matter, due to the fact that they serve an essential social function: They offer us all a high-minded pardon to execute the thing we all already want to carry out — buy and eat cookies.

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