General

Why do Girl Scout cookies differ depending on where you live?

Have you ever gotten into a debate with someone who doesn’t share your favorite Girl Scout cookie? How could they possibly not love a good Tagalong!? Well, as it turns out, Girl Scout cookies can vary greatly depending on where you live. There are two distinct recipes for each cookie, and the version you receive from your friendly neighborhood 3rd grader depends entirely on which part of the country you live in.

Different bakeries

Group of people holding assortment of various Girl Scout cookies on a white tray
Credit: Sheila Fitzgerald/ Shutterstock

It might come as a shock to you, but despite all of the life skills Girl Scouts learn, baking hundreds of thousands of cookies each year isn't one of of them. Instead, the organization uses two different commercial bakeries to fulfill all their orders: Little Brownie Bakers and ABC Bakers.

Little Brownie Bakers is based in Louisville, Kentucky, and ABC Bakers is located in Richmond, Virginia. Despite their easterly locations, both bakeries are national chains that distribute their products all over the country. So, just because you live in Kentucky, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get your cookies from Little Brownie Bakers (in fact, half of Kentucky is in ABC Bakers' distribution region).

Up close view of Girl Scout cookies, shortbread and peanut butter patties on white plate
Credit: Rob Hainer/ Shutterstock

While both bakeries make the same cookies, they use different recipes. A Thin Mint from ABC Bakers won’t look or taste quite the same as one from Little Brownie Bakers.

Sometimes they don’t even use the same names. Many people around the country don’t even know what a peanut-buttery Tagalong is. They would, however, know what a Peanut Butter Patty is, which is sort of the same thing.

Other cookies share a name but not much else. A S’mores cookie from ABC Bakers is a large chocolate coated graham cracker, while a S’mores cookie from Little Brownie Bakers is a smaller graham cracker sandwich with frosting and fudge in the middle.

So which bakery supplies your town? Check out this interactive map to find out.

Arrangement of five different types of Girl Scout cookies
Credit: Sheila Fitzgerald/ Shutterstock

Every state is divided up into regions, and each region has its own Girl Scout chapter. Smaller or less populated areas can have one chapter that covers larger swaths of a state. The higher the population, the more Girl Scout chapters within the state, and each of these chapters decides which bakery it would like to use.

There’s a lot of research that goes into choosing the bakery. Chapter leaders do taste tests — such a rough job! — take polls, and ask around town to determine which version of the cookies will sell best in their area. Once they've completed their research, the chapter picks either Little Brownie Bakers or ABC Bakers based on which they think will boost their sales.

Once a chapter decides on a bakery, they’re not locked in forever. It’s not uncommon for a chapter to switch bakeries based on consumer demand.

New flavor for 2020

Lemon cookies stacked in a bowl
Credit: belchonock/ iStock

Fresh for the new decade, the Girl Scouts will be releasing a new flavor of cookie called Lemon-Ups. Lemon-Ups are crisp, round, lemon-flavored cookies with a sweet glaze on one side, and each cookie features an encouraging message like “I’m a leader” or “I am a go-getter.”

However, these new Lemon-Ups cookies are only made by Little Brownie Bakers. If you’re in a region that offers ABC Bakers cookies, their Lemonades — a shortbread sandwich cookie stamped to look like a sliced lemon with a layer of lemon icing in the middle — have been a staple since 2006 and are still available.

But whether you know them as Caramel deLites or Samoas, Peanut Butter Sandwiches or Do-Si-Dos, it's always best to make like a Girl Scout and "be prepared" — no one ever regretted ordering an extra box.