A Brief History of Girl Scout Cookie Packaging
Unless you’ve been hiding in your basement you know we’re wrapping up Girl Scout cookie season and you’ve probably encountered one or more of the 2 million+ green sashed entrepreneurs hawking their line of baked goods.
I’ll admit I love indulging in a Samoa or two. (They go surprisingly well with a nice dry sparkling wine). But the boxes are what I’m interested in.
Girl Scout cookies have been sold in a variety of containers since the Mistletoe Troop of Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1917 baked the first cookies themselves. In the 1920’s, according to the Burry Biscuit Company, early containers appear to have been simple cardboard tubes. Then, in the 1930’s, the familiar green rectangular box came into vogue. Except for a brief detour into tin containers, Girl Scout cookies have come in paper-based packaging ever since.
Sugar and flour shortages during World War II made Girl Scout cookies rare in the 1940s. When cookie production resumed after the war the box design featured typical scouting activities with just the hint of a martial theme.
Then came a retro design positively reeking of atom bomb shelters and bobby socks. The flavor of the cookies inside seemed to be of secondary importance to the outdoorsy activities cookie sales helped to support.
Even Girl Scout cookies couldn’t escape post-sixties groovy conformity. Not a whole lot of camping and canoeing in the Peter Max era apparently. The emphasis seemed to be on vague consciousness-raising and delighting “in the flowing currents of life.”
The cookie boxes were most recently redesigned in 2012 to tell the story of what girls learn from selling the cookies. The current box lists the five skills that girls gain from the cookie program: goal setting, decision-making, money management, people skills and business ethics.
Girl Scout cookies are big business. In 2011, about 214 million boxes were sold, for a total of $787 million. Today, there are two authorized bakers making over 4.5 million Thin Mints per day at the season’s peak.
But almost from the beginning, the Girl Scouts recognized the important role that packaging plays in promoting not just the cookies within but the mission and spirit of the organization itself.
The flavors of the cookies may have surely changed over time – just as the designs on the packaging have evolved – but the goals have not.
Go ahead, buy a box of Tagalongs and contribute to a great tradition.