Girl Scout cookies will soon be everywhere. But how much do you know about how the cookies are created, who bakes them and what is the San Joaquin Valley's favorite cookie?
The answer to the Valley's favorite cookie is probably no surprise. It's the same one that has satisfied America's cookie appetite for decades: the Thin Mint.
The mint-flavored, chocolate-coated cookie is consumed by the millions during the Girl Scouts cookie season that just began.
At the Girl Scouts of Central California South in Fresno, about 25% of the initial orders are for Thin Mints. The next most popular cookie is another longtime favorite, the Caramel deLites.
In all, the Girl Scouts organization sells eight cookie varieties: Thanks-A-Lot, Caramel deLites, Peanut Butter Sandwich, Thin Mints, Lemonades, Peanut Butter Patties, and the new ones, Chocolate Chip Shortbread and Cranberry Citrus Crisps.
Although Girl Scout cookies began in the 1930s as simple sugar cookies made by the girls and their mothers, the operation has grown significantly. During the late 1940s and 1950s, there were more than two dozen bakers licensed to make three cookies: peanut butter sandwich, shortbread and chocolate mints.
Over the years, the number of bakers was whittled down to just two companies as the number of cookie varieties was expanded to eight.
Today, all Girl Scout cookies come from either ABC Bakers in Richmond, Va., or Little Brownie Bakers in Louisville, Ky. Together, they churn out more than 200 million packages of cookies each year.
Girl Scouts in the Fresno area get their cookies from ABC Bakers. The company's research and development department is in charge of creating new cookies, with an eye on capitalizing on new food trends.
Dacia Poulson, product program manager for the Central California South in Fresno, said this year the bakers have developed two new cookies: Cranberry Citrus Crisp and Chocolate Chip Shortbread, the first gluten-free cookie to be featured by the Girl Scouts. The cookie is part of a pilot project to test the cookies' appeal.
Fortunately for fans of gluten-free goodies, the Fresno-area Girl Scouts council is one of only 22 out of 112 councils participating in the pilot project.
"We often get asked why we don't have a gluten-free cookie, so our baker developed one," says Poulson. "We really thought it might do well in the California market where gluten free is very popular."
And gluten-free does not mean it has any less flavor.
"It is a bite-size cookie made with real butter and chocolate," says Poulson. "We expect it will do very well."
The other new cookie is the Cranberry Citrus Crisp, a light, fruity tasting cookie made with nine grams of whole grains.
"And you can really taste the fruit," says Poulson.
But not all cookies are big hits.
Several years ago, Poulson said the baker came up with a sugar-free cookie for people with diabetes. And while it may have been welcomed by some, it did not sell well and was discontinued.
Starting Friday, the Girl Scouts will set up booths in neighborhoods, in front of local grocery stores and at other businesses.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6327, email@example.com or @FresnoBeeBob on Twitter.