How Girl Scout Cookie Sales Stack Up Against Big Brands

The Girl Scouts sell nearly $800 million in cookies annually. How does that stack up?

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Girl Scouts from the Texas Council sell cookies on Feb. 23, 2007, in Dallas. (Matt Slocum/AP)

It's officially Girl Scout cookie season, giving Thin Mint fans the brief opportunity to stock up their freezers for the coming year. The nation's Girl Scouts manage to move nearly $800 million in cookies annually. If the Girl Scouts were a giant, cookie-hawking corporation, how would their sales program stack up against their competitors?

As with so many questions in the business world, the answer depends on how you look at it.

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The Girl Scouts sold $786 million in cookies in their 2011-2012 season, according to an organization spokeswoman. Compared to fellow cookie purveyors like Pepperidge Farm and McKee Foods (parent company of Little Debbie), not to mention Oreos, the top brand in the nation, Girl Scouts are competitive but still well behind. Hostess, whose sales slid considerably in recent years before its eventual liquidation at the end of 2012, also managed to remain well ahead of the scouts, with around $2.5 billion in sales in 2011. Here is how Girl Scouts' sales stack up against recent figures from other major baked-goods sellers:

http://www.usnews.com/dbimages/master/37145/GR_PR_130116_girlscouts_1.jpg

Still, considering that most troops sell cookies for only six to twelve weeks out of every year, one could consider it impressive that they even compete in roughly the same league as these major brands.

"Both of our bakers have told us that, based on their research...for the first quarter of the year, January through March, Thin Mints are the number one cookie in market," says Michelle Tompkins, a spokesperson for the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. Messages left for the bakers themselves, ABC Bakers and Little Brownie Bakers, were not returned.

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Still, if Girl Scouts really wanted to compete in the big leagues, they'd need to spend a little less time earning merit badges and more time diversifying their product lines and going international. Compared to some of the largest food corporations, $800 million looks awfully miniscule. Pepsico, the largest food and beverage company in the U.S., had around $65.9 billion dollars in revenues in 2011.

http://www.usnews.com/dbimages/master/37146/GR_PR_130116_girlscouts_2.jpg

Then again, that the Girl Scouts even register in this chart, pitted against a major multinational corporation, may be seen as impressive. Depending on which view you take, then, it may be time to pat your little Brownie scout on the back (or, alternatively, to tell her to sharpen her sales pitch).

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