Girl Scout Cookie Geography: A brownie civil war!

If you’re like me, you grew up in the wonderful and comforting land of Caramel DeLites, Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Shortbreads, and Peanut Butter Patties.  However, when I attended the University of Minnesota for my freshman year of college, my Girl Scout Cookie world came crashing down around me.  When trying to purchase Caramel DeLites from some Twin Cities Brownie saleswomen, I was shocked to see that they didn’t sell my favorite cookie.  Upon closer inspection I realized that they did sell what seemed to me to be a generic knock of off, entitled “Samoas.”  It turns out Samoas and Caramel DeLites are the exact same cookie but are merely the different names that the two licensed bakers of Girl Scout Cookies, ABC Bakers and Little Brownie Bakers, have for them.  It seems Little Brownie Bakers has been making Girl Scout Cookies since the early 1980s and ABC Bakers has been making them since 1939.  I suppose that in  forcing the two companies to compete for the nation’s girl scout cookie sales, the Girl Scouts of America has actually managed keep the price of cookies down by forcing economic competition.

However, this system also undoubtedly causes strife for Girl Scout Cookie lovers across the nation.  This is because there is actually very little consistency throughout states or even counties in some instances, whether Little Brownie Bakers or ABC Bakers have been selected as the baker of choice (it is up to the Girl Scout leadership in that region of the country).  So if you find yourself in Buffalo County in Western Wisconsin, be careful how your order your Caramelly Coconut treat.  Much like families were torn apart during the Civil War, it seems Buffalo County has it own Girl Scout struggles between the north and south of the county.  Also, what’s up with Osceola County in northwest Iowa being the only county in the whole state that purchased from Little Brownie Bakers because they are actually a part of Southwest Minnesota’s Girl Scout Leadership?  Either way, that is whack and they must really be in love with Samoas (and not Caramel DeLites).  Thin Mints may be Thin Mints across the board, but here is a summary of the confusing cookie names.

ABC Bakers Little Brownie Bakers
Caramel DeLites Samoas
Peanut Butter Sandwiches Do-Si-Dos
Shortbreads Trefoils
Peanut Butter Patties Tagalongs

So I did some research – a lot of it actually – and created the following map of how Girl Scout Cookies break down throughout the Midwest.  I highlighted the WI, MN, and UP counties in white but then grew a little lazy as I researched the baker of choice throughout the rest of the map.  If you zoom in you can still make out the other county lines though.

Girl Scout Cookie Map

Girl Scout Cookie Map

View Minnesota and Wisconsin Map Only





This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. wb001i

    I realized this when I came to Madison; Philadelphia must have been supplied by The Little Brownie Bakers. If nothing else they’ve won the battle of the better names.

  2. Jenni

    i see you’ve been keeping busy post-degree.

  3. Tina

    And in Canada, it’s Girl Guides, and they only sell two types of cookies (the chocolate mint is a chocolate wafer with a layer of mint, enrobed in chocolate). They only sell on ONE DAY in a central location, out of a truck. That’s it. I happened to be in Canada one year when the truck came through my mom’s town, and had to try the cookies. I have no idea who makes them. I donated the empty boxes to our local service unit office for fun. I think they are still on display there 😉 Thanks for the breakdown. 🙂

  4. Thomas Bean

    FYI — the map is now out of date. The Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri ( switched to ABC Bakers starting in 2011. 🙁

    LBB’s “Samoas” are SO much better than ABC’s “Caramel deLites.” Same goes for the Thin Mints. I ordered boxes from both bakeries this year, just so I could do a taste test (it helps to have family in Chicago!). While similar, the cookies from Little Brownie Bakers are vastly superior in taste and quality.

  5. Claire Saravia

    I’m a reporter for Capital News Service at the University of Maryland, College Park, and I’m working on a story about the reason behind the Girl Scouts using these two bakers to produce their cookies. I’ve been digging around and have found a couple potential reasons, including forcing economic competition to keep prices down, and making girl scout councils choose between the two bakers to prevent “cookie wars.” Do you have any information about either of these reasons (or other reasons?) Please let me know–you’d really be helping me out !

    -Claire Saravia

    1. Matthew

      Thanks for the message, Claire. Unfortunately, I don’t really have any citable sources to provide to you. I generated the map above from scratch and obtained my information by visiting each regional girl scout website to determine their contracted baking company and the counties that they serve. My above comment about forcing economic competition is my own assumption. You are welcome to cite any of this information for your article if you would like, however, some of the information may have changed since I posted it in August 2010.

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