Waiting eagerly outside your local grocery, or strolling through your neighborhood, red wagons in tow, it’s Girl Scout Cookie season, and our local scouts are looking forward to selling these toothsome treats. This year, more than 1 million Girl Scouts will gain valuable life and business experience through the Girl Scout Cookie Program, and 50 million households will purchase their cookies. It is remarkable to think that exactly one century ago, the very first Girl Scout cookies were homemade in the kitchens of scout moms and were available to locals only in the community of Muskogee, Oklahoma.
Yes, in 1917, just five years after Girl Scouts was founded, the members of the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee envisioned this efficient plan of selling sugar cookies in their town’s high school cafeteria to finance troop activities. Other troops took note of Mistletoe Troop’s successful business strategy, and the concept of Girl Scouts selling cookies took off.
In light of the nation-wide growth of Girl Scouts, an article in Girl Scout Magazine, “The American Girl,” shared both a scrumptious cookie recipe and smart business plan in 1922. At the time, the cost of baking six dozen cookies was around 26 to 36 cents, and it was suggested that girls sell one dozen for 25 or 30 cents. By 1936, the homemade cookies had gained so much popularity that the Girl Scout organization began licensing commercial bakers to produce these special treats. The step was a risky one, but it paid off. Come 1937, cookie sales stretched coast to coast and would continue to thrive for decades to come.
One of the Cookie’s great challenges was ceasing production during World War II, due to sugar, flour and butter shortages. Despite this hardship, Girl Scouts only became more innovative: the first Girl Scout calendars were sold in 1944 in place of cookies. And, when the war ended, cookie growth increased more than ever before. Much to the nation’s delight, three varieties emerged in the early 1950s, including “Sandwich,” “Shortbread,” and the original “Thin Mints,” known then as “Chocolate Mints.” Today, Thin Mints are the number one Girl Scout Cookie sold.
Here in Orange County, Girl Scouts sell cookies from ABC Bakers, a company that has been baking Girl Scout Cookies for more than 75 years. A whopping nine varieties will be available this upcoming season, with the addition of the chocolate-covered “S’mores Cookie,” created in honor of Girl Scouts Cookies’ 100th Anniversary. Classics include “Thanks-A-Lot,” “Lemonades,” “Shortbread,” “Thin Mints,” “Peanut Butter Patties,” “Caramel Delites,” and “Peanut Butter Sandwich.” “Trios” will also be featured, the first cookie made with certified gluten-free oats.
While recipes, bakers and cookie names have certainly changed over the past century, one thing remains the same–the success of Girl Scout Cookie sales boosts chances of success for each and every Girl Scout. Every step of the cookie-selling process, Girl Scouts take away valuable experience. Each girl gets her first taste of how a business works when she sets goals, networks with buyers, and sees the results, good or bad, of her work. She understands how her hard work can improve the lives of those less fortunate, when she chooses to use cookie revenue to fund beneficial community projects. Most of all, she learns that even the simple act of selling a box of cookies can hold great potential.