1. There are two Girl Scout bakeries, and they’re very different.
The Girl Scouts currently use two bakeries: Little Brownie Bakers, based in Louisville, Kentucky, and ABC Bakers, based in Richmond, Virginia.
The two facilities use slightly different recipes for Thin Mints, the Girl Scouts’ most popular cookie (more on Thin Mints later). They both produce Girl Scout S’mores, a new recipe added in 2017. Past that point, the cookies are named quite differently, and depending on which bakery your local troop uses, you’ll get a completely distinct set of options.
ABC Bakers offers Caramel deLites, Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Peanut Butter Patties, Shortbreads, and Lemonades. Little Brownie Bakers offers Samoas, Do-si-dos, Trefoils, Tagalongs, and Savannah Smiles.
As for the Thin Mints, ABC Bakers’ recipe is a bit crunchier, with more of a mint flavoring than the Little Brownie Bakers recipe. Samoas and Caramel deLites are quite similar, but Caramel deLites are slightly sweeter (despite having 10 fewer calories per serving).
2. Girl Scouts started selling cookies in 1917.
That would make this year the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scout cookie sale (in case you’re looking for an excuse to buy a box).
The first scouts probably weren’t planning on starting a national movement. The tradition started in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where a local troop decided to bake their own cookies and sell them at a local high school to fund their projects.
This became an annual event, but it didn’t spread out of the area until 1922. That year, the official magazine of the Girl Scouts, The American Girl, published a cookie recipe and a suggestion to troops across the country: bake your own cookies to fund your projects.
This proved to be a wildly popular suggestion, and soon, Girl Scouts around the country were organizing their own bake sales. Sensing an opportunity, the Girl Scouts’ national organization began to pay commercial bakers to produce cookies in 1936.
One of the first bakeries licensed by the Girl Scouts was Keebler-Weyl Bakery, which is now the largest cookie manufacturer in the United States. Keebler’s still involved, by the way, as they own Little Brownie Bakers.
3. Thin Mints are the most popular Girl Scout cookie.
Little Brownie Bakers produces more than 4.5 million Thin Mints a day during peak baking season. It’s been a long climb to the top—the Girl Scouts originally sold simple sugar cookies through their bake sales, and the first Thin Mint was apparently introduced in 1939. At the time, they were called “Cooky Mints,” but in 1951, the name changed to “Chocolate Mints.”
Finally, the Girl Scouts gave the cookie its current name in 1963, which is when Thin Mints first became a bestseller.
Despite the name, Thin Mints won’t make you thin, but we can provide a few positive dietary notes to eliminate some of the guilt you feel after scarfing down an entire sleeve.
First, they’re officially free from trans fats as of 2007, although some critics point out that the FDA allows any food with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving to be marked as “trans fat free.” They’re also vegan-friendly cookies, according to ABC Bakers’ website and PETA .
4. Girl Scout Cookies are big business.
Each year, the Girl Scouts sell about 200 million boxes of cookies at an average price of $3.50 per box. That means that they make about $700 million annually off cookie sales.
To incentivize sales, the Girl Scouts offer awards to the scouts who can sell the most cookies. These include badges like The Cookie Connection, Cookie Biz, Smart Cookie, Cookie Count, and Cookies & Dough. In case you’re wondering, Cookies & Dough is the highest sales award, so if a scout earns it, she has some serious business aptitude.
Most of the money goes to its intended purpose, as 75 percent of the cost of each box directly benefits the local Girl Scout council performing the sales drive. However, 25 percent goes to the bakeries that produce the cookies.
That’s actually a pretty tight profit margin for the bakers, and to keep prices low, the Girl Scouts reduced the number of cookies per box in 2009.
5. During World War II, the Girl Scouts sold calendars.
This was due to shortages in sugar, flour, and butter. It’s a great example of the Girl Scouts’ ability to pivot when needed; the savvy organization was able to continue its fundraising efforts during the war, and they hit the ground running when World War II ended.
By 1947, the Girl Scouts had licensed 29 bakers to produce its iconic cookies.
In case you’re wondering what those cookies tasted like, by the early 1950s, the Girl Scouts offered four cookies: Chocolate Sandwich (a chocolate-filled cookie), Vanilla Sandwich, Shortbread, and Chocolate Mint. Some of the bakeries also offered additional varieties.
Those cookies often shipped in simple wax packages, but the Girl Scouts recognized the need for branding. In the 1970s, the organization standardized its cookies packages with images of scouts hiking, camping, and canoeing. Around this time, the Scouts also started putting their logo on every box.
6. In 2013, Honey Boo Boo was banned from selling Girl Scout Cookies.
Strange, but true: Alana Thompson, better known to America as reality star “Honey Boo Boo,” was officially banned from selling Girl Scout Cookies through social media.
Why? Well, several reasons: first, Alana wasn’t actually a Girl Scout. Second, the Girl Scouts carefully control how their cookies are bought and sold.
As the organization said in a statement, “Through an online sales approach, a girl doesn’t have the personal experience of asking someone to purchase her product. She doesn’t have to learn the responsibility of handling the money and personally delivering the order. When you have canvassed your neighborhood and manned cookie booths for hours, you learn the value of a hard day’s work. There is also a strong feeling of accomplishment when you are personally engaged in the activity.”
In her defense, Alana was trying to help her local troop, Georgia Troop No. 60373. The ban was temporary, and the troop was able to keep all of the money earned via the Honey Boo Boo social media pages.
7. You can make the original Girl Scout cookies at home.
However, the only recipe available is for straight-up sugar cookies, so if you had any illusions about cooking a batch of Thin Mints, you’re out of luck.
The cookie recipe is available on the Girl Scouts’ website here (look for the drop-down link that says “Check out the original Girl Scout Cookie recipe from 1922!”).
The recipe is extremely basic, although the Scouts have added a few “modern” tips to make the finished product a bit more professional.
If you do want to make Thin Mints or any other modern Girl Scout cookie at home, there are plenty of recipes available online, although they’re not licensed by the official Girl Scouts organization and they don’t taste quite the same. Sally’s Baking Addiction has one of the best copycat recipes.
However, we’d strongly recommend buying a real box if you’ve got a craving (and the opportunity—Girl Scout Cookie season only comes once per year). That’s because…
8. Those girls on the boxes are all real Girl Scouts.
The organization does not use paid models, so every smiling face on every box of Tagalongs is a real Scout. That should help you feel better about treating yourself to a snack; hey, those Scouts are happy, right? At least you’re helping the kids in your area.
And as the Girl Scouts organization points out, their members go on to do great things. Sixty percent of the women in the House of Representatives and 59 percent of the women in the Senate are former scouts. Famous alumnae include Barbara Walters, Katie Couric, Taylor Swift, Dakota Fanning, Mariah Carey, Carrie Fisher, and both Venus and Serena Williams.
Currently, there are more than 59 million Girl Scouts in the United States, and cookie sales certainly play a huge role in sustaining your local troop. As the Girl Scouts’ website points out, “When a Girl Scout sells you cookies, she’s building a lifetime of skills and confidence. She learns goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics—skills essential to leadership, success, and life.”
Hey, that works for us. Pass the Thin Mints.