Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Times published a groundbreaking map showing everything we thought we knew about Girl Scout Cookies was a lie. People were left feeling confused, betrayed — and a little hungry.
We here at Babble empathize completely. We lived through this same cataclysmic realization about a month ago, when the innocent daughter of a coworker offered to sell one naïve intern a box of Caramel deLites.
“What are Caramel deLites? I want Samoas.”
“They’re the same thing!”
The office erupted. It was like #TheDress but worse. Sides were taken, loyalties tested. Who are these impostors? Why are the Samoas now called Caramel deLites?
What was a girl to do with one cookie, two names, and virtually no information?
What investigative journalists do best, naturally: snoop. We hit the streets, consulting our secret channel of cohorts and fellow cookie fiends.
We quickly learned that there are three predominant theories regarding The Great Cookie Schism:
1. This is a full-blown Invasion of the Body Snatchers scenario. Samoas have been usurped by Caramel deLites. The government may be behind it. #Cookiegate2015
2. Come on people, stop freaking out. It’s obviously the same cookie, just rebranded. The Girl Scouts are nothing if not marketing geniuses, and this is their newest plan to subliminally make us dependent on these cookies for both satisfaction and survival.
3. It’s all about location. Both cookies actually exist, but which cookie you get is determined by where you live. Potentially the next phase of the East Coast/West Coast feud, because people have exhausted the Dunkin Donuts/In ‘N Out debate.
For the record: Wrong, wrong, and kind of right.
Samoas and Caramel deLites are both currently available for sale. They are both commissioned by the Girl Scouts of the USA, and they are both coconutty, caramelly, chocolatey discs of heaven.
But do not be mistaken — they are not the same cookie.
Investigation Step One: Take a Cookie Break
Our journalistic integrity on the line, we reported responsibly (aka ordered a box of each and ate them all) and compiled a list of the tangible and taste-able differences.
The highlights? Samoas have a darker chocolate and less crunchy cookie, while Caramel deLites have a stronger coconut taste and are slightly less sweet.
Which is better? It’s a stalemate.
We unleashed a team of highly qualified taste-testers who let us know in no uncertain terms how they felt about the cookies:
“Tastes like childhood.” (regarding the Caramel deLite)
“The Samoa is clearly a superior cookie. It tastes fresher and has more vibrant colors. There’s more chocolate, too.”
“The cookie center of the Samoa was a little meager. I want a real mouthful when I’m actually allowing myself to eat a $5 box of cookies.”
The final vote, however, was split down the middle.
Full of cookies, but still with few answers, we decided to ride our sugar high all the way to the second most powerful weapon in our investigative arsenal: Google.
Enter search term: WHY are Samoas and Caramel deLites different? #Cookiegate2015
A Tale of Two Bakeries
According to the Girl Scouts of the USA, the reason behind the Samoa/Caramel deLite dichotomy is as simple as it is obvious: there are two bakeries.
The Girl Scouts employ both ABC Bakers and Little Brownie Bakers to manufacture their delicious, addictive, trade-em-on-the-Black-Market-they’re-so-good cookies. (You think we’re kidding but we know some moms who have actually made Black Market deals to get their hands on this year’s newest, most exclusive cookie, the Toffee-tastic.)
Let’s get to know our bakeries, shall we?
ABC Bakers is all about tradition. They’ve been making cookies for the Girl Scouts for over 75 years, nearly twice as long as their counterpart. All of their cookies have overtly literal and quite lengthy names. (Peanut Butter Patties and Peanut Butter Sandwich? Geez.) But what they lack in creativity, they make up for in specialty. ABC is owned by Interbake Foods, a company that focuses exclusively on baked goods.
Little Brownie Bakers hasn’t been around as long, but they make up for it with their creative, free-spirited cookie names. They would totally be the type of parent that names their kids things like Truth, Persimmon, and Singapore. It gives them a slightly edgier vibe over ABC (emphasis on the slight — this is the Girl Scouts, after all) and they run with it. Little Brownie is also a subsidiary of Kellogg, the very same Kellogg that makes your Fruit Loops. So when it comes to sugary, addictive substances, they clearly know what they’re doing.
Anyone else getting a left Twix, right Twix vibe here?
It’s All a Numbers Game
Before this starts to sound too much like West Side Story, it’s best to disclose that the Girl Scouts have always used multiple bakeries to do their delicious work. In fact, cookie production was once spread out between 29 facilities.
So why only two? Or, better question, why two at all?
We reached out to Kelly Parisi, Chief Communications Executive for the Girl Scouts of the USA, and she told us the answer is simple: “Having more than one baker allows us to have greater production capacity to support the Girl Scout Cookie Program.”
Makes sense, since those little cadets sell an estimated 200 million boxes a year.
The bombshells kept dropping as Parisi revealed that the reason behind the different names is … you better hold on to your socks for this one … trademarking.
You see, both bakeries are vying for the Girl Scouts’ continued business but can’t alter the recipes, cookie designs, or packaging too greatly while under the umbrella of the organization. Like the high-school student who just wants to express herself but is restricted by a dress code, the bakeries declare their identity in the only way they can — the cookie names.
The one exception is Thin Mints, whose name is trademarked by the Girl Scouts of the USA. That’s why, in a sea of Do-si-dos, Lemonades, Trios, and Peanut Butter Patties, Thin Mints remain the same (but only in name; the recipe is slightly different). Perhaps that’s why they are believed to be the most popular cookie? That’s a theory for another story …
You Get What You Get, and You Don’t Get Upset
Speaking of theories, back to the ones we listed before: the geography idea isn’t actually that far off base. Where you live DOES inform which type of cookie you have access to. But it’s not as simple as East Coast/West Coast or the Mason-Dixon line.
The Girl Scouts of the USA are divided geographically into 112 councils (there are technically 113, but the last one is international), and each council decides which distributor they would like to work with, thus entering into an exclusive relationship with that bakery and their cookies.
According to the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles, the decisions are based on loyalty, meaning once a council decides to go Little Brownie, they rarely go back.
Currently, about 65 percent of continental councils use Little Brownie Bakers, but if you’re fearing for the future of your Caramel deLites, take a deep breath. Parisi confirmed that, contrary to rumors, there are no plans to consolidate to one bakery.
And there you have it. But while we answered the one question that kicked off our journey, we’re left with many more: what exactly goes down in the Girl Scout Cookie Black Market, and how can you get in? Why do most councils choose to work with Little Brownie? What will be ABC’s response to the Toffee-tastic?
#Cookiegate2015 continues, but for now, the Babble editors are over and out.
(If you need us, we’ll be in the kitchen polishing off the last of those cookies.)