As if sticker shock in grocery stores hasn’t been enough, inflation has hit another consumer favorite: Girl Scout cookies.
When Girl Scouts in New York start their annual cookie sales this week, customers will be paying $7 a box for favorites like Thin Mints, Samoas, and Tagalongs, up from $5 last year.
“It has been six years since we’ve done a cookie price increase,” said Meridith Maskara, the chief executive of the Girl Scouts of Greater New York, which represents 25,000 members across the city’s five boroughs. “Girl Scouts are not immune to the rising costs of life.”
Across the country, Girl Scout troops have been seeing jumps in cookie prices over the last couple of years. But they are not all seeing them at the same levels. That’s because the 111 councils that make up the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. operate as individual nonprofit organizations and negotiate separate contracts with the two bakeries that are licensed to manufacture the cookies. The various councils also decide when to sell the cookies.
“While prices have remained steady in many areas for years, some councils have made the tough decision to shift prices,” the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. said in an emailed statement. The intent, it added, is to pay for rising costs and “to continue to provide robust support for local troops.”
So while cookie prices are climbing to $7 in New York this year, Girl Scouts in some parts of New Jersey, for instance, are charging $6 a box. That’s up from $5 or $5.50 last year. And other councils are not raising prices at all.
“In 2021, we went up to $5 a box from $4,” said Jennifer Norton, a troop leader of girls ages 9 to 11 in Hendersonville, N.C. “But this year, our cookie prices didn’t budge.”
For decades, Girl Scouts have set up tables outside stores to take orders, and parents have prodded family members and co-workers to buy boxes of cookies during the typically brief selling windows. While some buy the cookies simply because they love Thin Mints, others purchase because they were once Girl Scouts themselves or they support the broader mission of the organization.
As the prices of cookies climb, however, there is some worry that it will result in fewer boxes being sold and less money being available for programming or trips for the girls’ troops. Although in some cases, the higher prices could mean that the money going to the troops will remain roughly flat, even if the number of boxes being sold is less.
“We are aiming to sell 1.3 million packages, but that goal is lower than last year’s levels because of the price increase,” said Ms. Maskara of the Greater New York council, adding, “Customers who used to buy four packages for $20 might now buy three packages for $21.”
Elizabeth Franke, the leader of a troop of eighth-grade girls in East Windsor, N.J., which has had three price increases to $6 a box from $4 in 2018, said she expected her troop’s repeat customers to remain loyal. On a recent Sunday afternoon when the temperature was 27 degrees, the girls from her troop sold 74 boxes of cookies from a table outside a local Walmart.
“People who are going to buy the cookies are still going to buy them,” Ms. Franke said. “Sometimes they were Girl Scouts themselves or their daughter or mother was a Girl Scout.”
While rising inflation over the last few years has pushed food prices higher, that’s only part of the reason Girl Scout cookie prices are climbing.
For a $6 box of cookies sold by some troops in New Jersey, about $1.29 goes to ABC Bakers, one of two bakeries in the country that pay a licensing fee to Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. to make the official Girl Scout cookies, according to an infographic from Girl Scouts of Central and Southern New Jersey. The other is Little Brownie Bakers, which is owned by the Ferrero Group. Neither bakery returned calls or emails seeking comment.
As much as $3.73 of each box of cookies goes to shipping, restocking and credit card fees, as well as to the local council to maintain camps and properties and pay for programming. That leaves the Girl Scout troops with 75 cents to $1.35 a box in proceeds.
The money the Girl Scouts earn from the annual cookie sales goes to pay for programming or trips, Ms. Norton of the North Carolina troop said. Her troop has used its earnings for programs involving coding and robotics, as well as American Sign Language. They are also hoping to save money to eventually take a trip to Savannah, Ga., where there is a museum within the Girl Scouts’ first headquarters.
Many involved with the Girl Scouts hope those goals will persuade potential customers to keep buying cookies, even if they might cost a little bit more.
“We’re not in the cookie business,” Ms. Maskara of the Girl Scouts of Greater New York said. “We’re in the girls empowerment business.”