Money  /  Retrieval

The Truth Behind the Girl Scout Cookie Graveyard

Even popular cookies can end up permanently cut from the roster.

In the Beginning

Girl Scouts have peddled cookies for more than a century now. The first Girl Scout cookie didn’t come from a box. Instead, Girl Scouts baked the treats themselves, and sold them to raise money for camping and other activities. In 1922, a Girl Scout magazine published a sugar cookie recipe for members to make themselves.

By the 1930s, the Girl Scouts turned to commercial bakers. “It got to the point where the girls couldn’t keep up with the demand for the cookies. So that’s when the National [the Girl Scout National Council] decided it would be okay for the councils to make contracts with local bakers to bake the cookies,” says Schillings.

The cookies stayed fairly simple for a while, and, Schillings notes, as many as 29 bakeries at one point were producing them for the Scouts. Options included buttery shortbread, sandwich cookies, and, in 1939, an ancestor of the Thin Mint, called the Cooky-Mint.

A Tale of Two Bakeries

By the 1990s, only two bakeries were licensed to make the cookies: ABC Bakers and Little Brownie Bakers.

Schillings, who led a Girl Scout council as president for six years, notes that each council decides which bakery to source their cookies from, based on the price per box and the projected number of boxes needed. “Naturally, if they can sell more cookies, they’re going to get a cheaper price for it,” she says.

Do you have a box of Girl Scout cookies near you, right now? Flip it over and look at the bottom flap to find the company that made your cookies. Interestingly, the bakers use different ingredients and methods to make their cookies, resulting in differences in both taste and appearance. Of course, there are passionate arguments online about which bakery is better.

There are also some naming differences. Both ABC Bakers and Little Brownie Bakers make chocolate-covered mint cookies called Thin Mints and shortbread cookies called Trefoils. Both companies make peanut-butter-and-chocolate cookies, but ABC Bakers calls theirs Peanut Butter Patties, and Little Brownie calls theirs Tagalongs. Same goes for the coconut-chocolate cookies (Caramel deLites versus Samoas) and peanut butter sandwich cookies (Peanut Butter Sandwiches versus Do-si-dos).

Schilling notes that these five cookies are the mainstays of the Girl Scouts’ lineup, and will likely not change any time soon. They clearly have staying power: All were added to the roster in either 1974 or 1976.

Past those five cookies, though, yawns an abyss filled with cookie ghosts. This is the Girl Scout cookie graveyard.