The Girl Scouts organization is known for exuding compassion, promoting leadership, and perhaps most famously of all, selling cookies. Since the group was established in 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low, Girl Scouting has blossomed into a global movement — a far cry from its humble origins as a single troop of 18 girls in Savannah, Georgia. In the United States, Girl Scouts raise money for their cause by selling their highly popular and ultra-decadent namesake brand of cookies. In honor of those mouthwatering snacks (which are on sale now!), here are six delectable facts about Girl Scout Cookies to sink your teeth into.
Though there have been many changes to the kinds of Girl Scout Cookies sold over the decades, three stalwart flavors are mandated each year: Thin Mints, Do-si-dos (also called Peanut Butter Sandwiches), and Trefoils. None of these varieties existed in their current form in the earliest years of cookie sales, but a version of Thin Mints can be traced back to 1939, when troops started selling a flavor known as “Cooky-Mints.” By the 1950s, shortbread had joined the lineup, alongside the renamed Chocolate Mints and sandwich cookies in vanilla and chocolate varieties. Peanut Butter Sandwiches hit the scene soon after, and by 1966, all three of the aforementioned flavors were among the group’s bestsellers. Other cookies came and went in the decades that followed, but Thin Mints, Do-si-dos, and Trefoils have been staples since the 1970s — and for good reason.
Thin Mints are the Girl Scouts’ No. 1 bestselling cookie variety, and the most searched-for Girl Scout Cookies in the majority of U.S. states. Do-si-dos rank fifth in sales (after Samoas/Caramel deLites, Peanut Butter Patties/Tagalongs, and Adventurefuls), and Trefoils feature a version of the Girl Scout logo and were inspired by the original Girl Scout Cookie recipe.
Elizabeth Brinton may not be a household name, but she’s a legend among Girl Scout Cookie sellers. From 1978 to 1990, Brinton sold 100,000 boxes of cookies before ultimately hanging up what she called her “cookie coat.” She began by selling cookies door to door, but in 1985 she pivoted to setting up shop at a local Virginia metro station to sell the treats to passengers during rush hour. Brinton sold 11,200 boxes in that year alone, and was soon dubbed the “Cookie Queen” by the media. She went on to set the record for the most Girl Scout Cookies sold in a single year, with 18,000 boxes, though that number was nearly doubled in 2021 by Girl Scout Lilly Bumpus, who sold a staggering 32,484 boxes. Brinton’s career record of 100,000 boxes has since been surpassed, too, but the Girl Scout who broke it, Katie Francis, actually consulted the Cookie Queen for advice.
Brinton told Francis to “think outside of the box” — a maxim that served her well back in the 1980s. In 1985, Brinton wrote to her local congressman, Frank Wolf, to ask for his help in selling cookies to then-President Ronald Reagan, and in 1986, Wolf accompanied her to the White House, where she sold one box of every flavor to President Reagan. She also sold a few boxes to Reagan’s Vice President, George H.W. Bush, and Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Harry A. Blackmun, and William H. Rehnquist.
Due to wartime shortages, the Girl Scouts briefly pivoted away from the culinary world during World War II. The U.S. government began rationing sugar in May 1942, and butter in March 1943 — both integral ingredients in the Girl Scout Cookie creation process. Because of this, the Girl Scouts had trouble filling orders, though in certain instances local troops were supplied ingredients by benefactors, or Girl Scouts baked cookies specifically for members of the military. Most troops, however, had to find other ways to raise money, so in 1944, the Girl Scout National Equipment Service began producing calendars to be sold for 25 cents.
Fortunately for both the Scouts and their customers, the cookie drought was only temporary. By 1946, ingredients were no longer being rationed, and cookie sales resumed and then grew; by 1950, the line of Girl Scout Cookies had been expanded to add new flavors.
It may be hard to fathom today, given the sheer breadth of the current cookie operation, but Girl Scout Cookies were originally homemade. A troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma, baked and sold the first cookies in a school cafeteria in 1917, and other troops soon followed suit. A few years later in 1922, a Chicago-based magazine called The American Girl published a recipe to be used by Girl Scouts all over the country. It was just a simple sugar cookie containing butter, sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla, flour, and baking powder, but it was a hit with consumers.
Throughout the 1920s, Girl Scout Cookies were baked by troop members with help from their parents and members of the local community. The treats were subsequently packaged in wax paper, sealed with a sticker, and sold for 25 to 35 cents per dozen. It wasn’t until 1934 that the Girl Scouts of Greater Philadelphia Council became the first council to sell commercially baked cookies; within two years, the national organization began licensing the cookie-making process to commercial bakeries.
In the late 1940s, 29 bakers were licensed to make Girl Scout Cookies. Today, Girl Scouts get their goods from just two licensed bakeries: ABC Bakers in Virginia and Little Brownie Bakers in Kentucky. Depending on which bakery produces the cookies your local troop sells, you may find that the snacks have slightly different names. For instance, Tampa residents receive Samoas from Little Brownie Bakers, whereas people who live just a few hours away in Orlando chow down on the virtually identical Caramel deLites from ABC Bakers.
And it’s not just the branding that may differ from city to city. Cookies might also look or taste different due to minor discrepancies in each bakery’s recipes. For example, ABC’s Thin Mints are crunchier and mintier than Little Brownie’s richer and chocolatier version, and Caramel deLites are heavier on the coconut flavor than Samoas. A few cookies are also specific to one bakery: Currently, S’mores are made only by Little Brownie Bakers, while Lemonades are exclusive to ABC Bakers. (Little Brownie has a completely different lemon cookie called Lemon-Ups.) No matter which bakery provides the cookies, though, you’re in for an indulgent treat.
Some Girl Scout Cookie flavors are likely never to go away, due to their enduring popularity, but not all cookies are so lucky. Some 51 former varieties have come and gone in the decades since the snacks were first introduced. That’s not to say these bygone flavors didn’t have their fans, of course; many people look back fondly upon these scrumptious but discontinued treats, which include Kookaburras, a combination of Rice Krispies and chocolate, and Golden Yangles, a savory cheddar cheese cracker. There’s always the possibility of a comeback, though, as Lemon Chalet Cremes made a brief return in 2007 after having been phased out in the 1990s. It was a short-lived run, but you can still hold out hope that your favorite former flavor may return someday.