How Girl Scout Cookies Have Stayed on Trend 100 Years Later

January 10, 2017

What retailers and brands can learn from Girl Scouts.

It’s a big year for Girl Scout Cookies as they officially launch the sales season on Saturday, January 14th. However, you may have already encountered pre-sales which started late December. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Girl Scout cookies, an empire that started in 1917 as a local fundraiser in Muskogee, Oklahoma. And in case you haven’t noticed, the leaders of these young cookie pushers have done a bang up job staying on trend. Even if they aren’t exactly the greatest tasting cookies you’ve ever had, a variety of reasons motivate people to place their orders.

There are some key signs since the turn of the millennium, Girl Scouts have been paying attention and responding, purposefully or not, to food industry trends. 

Take for example in 2005, the time around when trans fats had become a major food news event when recommendations unfolded that consumers beware of their intake of this ingredient. The Girl Scouts of America responded by offering zero trans fats cookies, and in addition reformulated their most popular selling line, Thin Mints. Fast forward to the present, and the scouts are offering five different kinds of cookies that are vegan and a gluten-free option. 

But their recipes and ingredient evolutions are only part of the story. Girl Scout cookies have positioned themselves to inspire those growing number of shoppers that are interested in cause-driven campaigns as well as how a brand supports communities on a local level. What could be more inspiring than empowering young girls with entrepreneurial skills, money management techniques, and tools to successfully run a business? 

Back in 2012, Girl Scout Cookies initiated the first major packaging revamp of since 1999. The almost $800 million (annual sales) brand puts its cause front and center, showcasing the five financial literacy and entrepreneurship skills that the Girl Scout Cookie Program teaches girls—namely goal setting, decision-making, money management, people skills, and business ethics.

What better timing then and even more so now for a message of feminine empowerment that can easily resonate with customers as people realize more today than ever that girls are growing into women who bear increasing financial responsibilities for their families, households, workplaces and neighborhoods.

How else have the Girl Scouts sustained themselves as a modern brand? In 2014 they made the move to digital sales. With their Digital Cookie™ platform, young girls get the added experience of learning about the online retail world in fun and safe interactive space. Some of the scouts use their own personalized websites for sales that require an invitation to place an order, and some are using a mobile app to take orders. 

And to top it all off this year a new variety has been introduced, S’mores. Although it may seem surprising that it took so long to offer a cookie that represents so perfectly the campfire, scouting experience, it’s a great way to celebrate the cookie empire’s 100th anniversary. 

Also, General Mills will be offering Girl Scout cookie cereals this year, so now our young women of America are learning about co-branding! Get ready food world, these young ladies may be your next generation of leaders in business and innovation.