Cookie Cartel

8 Feb

In honor of National Girl Scout Cookie Day, I’m turning my little eye to organization’s $700 million dollar cookie business. Now that’s a lot of flour. 1,050,000 pounds to be exact.


According to Little Brownie Bakers, a division of Keebler owned by Kellogg specifically created to produce Girl Scout cookies, meeting peak season also demands a recipe of  300,000 pounds of shortening, 650,000 pounds of sugar,  230,000 pounds of peanut butter, 50,000 pounds of cocoa and 500,000 pounds of chocolate coating.


But let’s backtrack for a minute.


 I know it seems a little sacrilegious lumping the control of the manufacturing and distribution of Do-Si-Dos and Thin Mints in the same category with black market substances specifically manufactured and distributed to restrict competition and manage pricing, but hear me out. I love those darn cookies just as much as the next person. I have the boxes to prove it. But do you know how I got my 3 boxes?


The shadows of the local 7-Eleven’s Red Box kiosk normally home to panhandlers trading change for windshield wipes or a hold of the gas pump housed a pair of unexpected occupants two weeks ago: a mother and daughter pair selling Do-Si-Dos and Trefoils—two out of three of the holy trinity of Girl Scout Cookies. They were out of Thin Mints.


The next day, a trio of girls draped in vests and badges pitched a table in the middle of a neighbor’s lawn and flagged down passing cars with posters. It was so cute I double-backed and a bought a pair.

As I was handed my favorite, the Thin Mints, and a box of Samoas for my mom through the informal cookie drive-thru, my window was serenaded by a chorus of “thank yous” from the Girl Scouts, mothers, aunts and cousins perched on the porch.


Music to my ears. Like the hum of the organ still buzzing in the air Sunday as the announcer rattled through the day’s announcement from the pulpit: Tucked between the usual birthday declarations, anniversary reminders and offers of condolences to the grieving families of the recently departed, was the mouth-watering menu of those famous cookies.

They were available for sale after service from two Girl Scouts in the congregation, he proclaimed as the scouts, donning their uniforms, stood and waved princess-style. The church offered an emphatic round of Amen’s.  


Since cookie season began in January, I’ve been simply amazed by the ingenuity, omnipresence and sheer relentless of scouts to sell the fabled boxes. Which led me to wonder where on Earth do these fabulous creations come from? How and when were Girl Scout cookies born?


In Muskogee, Oklahoma, history offers. In 1917, the Mistletoe troop baked cookies in their homes and sold them in the local high school’s cafeteria to raise funds for the troop.


31 years later, the organization had 29 different professional bakers whipping up batches of the iconic cookies. Now Girl Scouts are putting their eggs in only two baskets: Today, Kentucky’s Keebler spawn, Little Brownie Bakers and Virginia’s ABC Bakers are the sole producers of elusive cookies. Every year, each council chooses which baker to patronize independently.


No worries. The troops reportedly take 75% of the earnings, leaving the bakers with a quarter of the earnings. But a quarter of a $700 million dollar annual cookie sale divided by two still smells pretty sweet.  


And the girls. Well, statistics is on their side. 64 percent of today’s American women leaders once hawked cookies. Heck, 1 in 2 adult American women did. 60 percent of women in Congress also once scouted: that must some amazing batter.


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