Economy Shrinks Girl Scout Cookies

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Selling Girl Scout cookies in an economy that is forcing many Americans to cut back on excess spending seems difficult enough. Now Girl Scout troops face an even tougher task: selling boxes that contain fewer or smaller cookies, but at the same price.

Faced with higher baking and transportation costs, Girl Scouts of the USA this year reduced the weight of some of its cookie boxes by 1 ounce, or two to four cookies per box, according to national Girl Scout spokeswoman Michelle Tompkins.

Tompkins said the entire cookie sale lasts from October to May, but the majority of the sales take place from January to March. It’s too early to tell whether the lighter boxes will affect sales, which usually raise about $700 million annually.

“Some councils say it’s their best year ever, and some councils are having trouble, but that’s no different from year to year,” Tompkins said.

Flour and cocoa prices are up 30 percent and 20 percent, respectively, at the two bakers that make the cookies, and transportation costs have increased 30 percent to 40 percent from last year, according to Tompkins. This led to a decision to reduce the weight of each box’s contents to save costs, a change that the nonprofit organization has not made in the past 10 years.

The size reductions were approved for different cookies at the two baking companies, meaning that the specific cookie boxes being sold at reduced weights will vary from market to market. But all markets will be selling at least some of their cookie varieties in smaller sizes. The exact prices per box also range among the local councils, with an average of $3.50 a box.

The 200 million cookie boxes sold annually by the nation’s councils are a major revenue generator for the Girl Scouts, with local troops keeping all profits from their individual sales. Local councils use cookie revenue for training volunteer troop leaders, reducing member fees, improving activity sites and other projects, according to the Girl Scouts’ official website.

Whether such troop activities will be underfunded next year because the smaller cookie boxes result in reduced sales is unclear.

“I think people know when they buy Girl Scout cookies, they’re not just buying a delicious treat, they’re also supporting girls,” said Tompkins.

“It’s not a cookie sale; it’s the Girl Scout cookie program. What we’re most proud of is the skills that the girls learn.”