How the COVID pandemic devastated Girl Scout cookie sales

covid girl scout cookies
Photo via brian/Flickr (CC BY ND 2.0)

Amid the ongoing pandemic, the Girl Scouts of the USA were unable to sell their normal supply of girl scout cookies. They now have 15 million unsold boxes, leaving a huge number of uneaten Girl Scout cookies in the time of COVID. 

A representative from the company told the Associated Press on June 14 that about 12 million boxes of cookies are still sitting at their two baking facilities, Little Brownie Bakers and ABC Bakers. 

Although the Girl Scouts have tried selling cookies virtually and via drive-thrus, the demand has simply not met the supply. 

“This is unfortunate, but given this is a girl-driven program and the majority of cookies are sold in-person, it was to be expected,” Kelly Parisi, a spokeswoman for Girl Scouts of the USA told AP.

Parisi said Girl Scouts did predict lower sales due to the pandemic, but because of constantly shifting coronavirus restrictions, the organization’s 111 local councils placed optimistic orders. 

By early spring 2020, when troops usually set up booths to sell cookies in person, coronavirus cases in the U.S. were still near their peak, and hundreds of girl scouts decided not to sell cookies face to face. Online sales, including a delivery partnership with Grubhub, couldn’t make up the difference.

Before COVID-19, Girl Scouts of the USA would usually sell 200 million boxes of cookies per year, earning around $800 million. And clearly, people were still buying hordes of chocolate during the pandemic.

Aside from the pandemic, waning Girl Scouts memberships could have also contributed to fewer cookie sales. According to the AP, membership has dropped by 30% since 2009—long before the pandemic.

“Without girls, there is no cookie program. Unfortunately, it took a global pandemic to bring all the problems to the surface,” Agenia Clark, local council president and CEO of Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee, said.

Declining memberships have also been linked to reports from the AP about alleged child labor used to produce the palm oil used in Girl Scout cookies. Many members and customers boycotted the organization due to the allegations. 

Parisi said the Girl Scouts are working with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a nonprofit group that sets environmental and social standards for the industry, to ensure farmers are meeting those standards.

The Girls Scouts have not revealed how much of a financial hit the organization has suffered from the low sales. But it’s unlikely to be its worst struggle—which came during World War II, when the Girl Scouts were forced to sell calendars instead of cookies because of wartime baking goods shortages. 

Local Girl Scouts councils won’t be held financially responsible for the surplus cookies. Their suppliers are working with the organization to sell or donate cookies to food banks and the military. They can’t sell directly to grocers, though, because that may diminish the importance of their future annual cookie sales.

Girl Scouts did not immediately respond to Nautilus’ request to comment. Little Brownie Bakers and ABC Bakers also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sources: Associated Press, Insider

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