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Uh-Oh, Girl Scouts Changed Thin Mints

Uh-Oh, Girl Scouts Changed Thin Mints

Now Vegan jpg David PR Group

It’s Girl Scout cookie season, and I know this because there are 17 cases of the tasty treats in my living room. This annual resolution buster, happily nestled between Christmas and Easter, marks the biggest annual fundraiser for Girl Scouts, and cookie selling remains an iconic rite of passage for young girls (and their moms) throughout the United States. My daughter began selling the cookies seven years ago, and I have helped sell them at my office, loaded the car for booth sales throughout our neighborhood, and wolfed down more than my share of Tagalongs, Samoas, and Do-si-dos. (You can keep the lemon ones and the logo-emblazoned butter cookies.) But of course, the star of the Girl Scout cookie universe is the chocolate-covered, peppermint-flavored wafer known as the Thin Mint. This year, though, there is something rotten in the state of baking sheets: Thin Mints have gone vegan!

With little fanfare, the Girl Scout brain trust directed the bakers of its most popular green-boxed confection to change the recipe and make it free of any dairy products. Guess what? By my taste buds, they’re not the same. Yes, Girl Scout intelligentsia will say otherwise as does my daughter’s highly devoted volunteer leader. But I’m telling you, they’re missing something (butter and eggs, duh) that gave them that richness and texture that added to their addictiveness.

You may wonder how I am qualified to make this proclamation. Allow me to explain. There are three topics in this world for which I claim sufficient knowledge to stand toe-to-toe with any known expert. They are, in no particular order, the state of the public relations industry, college football, and cookies. I have eaten cookies practically every day of my life. I learned to bake them with my mom and taught my daughter the same craft. So, just as print media is terminally ill and the college football playoff will eventually be eight teams, I tell you this: The Thin Mints aren’t the same. (Plus, my wife said they taste drier.)

Now, I could continue on some technical rant about the removal of whey from the recipe and how the transition to a vegan-friendly formula has to change the cookie, but I would rather focus on the “why?”

Why would an organization change the recipe of its best-selling and most iconic product?

Might just be cost.  We have all seen the rise in grocery costs, and dairy products are helping lead the charge.  Perhaps going vegan is a cost-cutting move by the Girl Scouts.  The price per box only rises every few years, so saving a few pennies on the about 200 million boxes sold per year will quickly add up to real money.

Gotta reach those vegans? As far as I can tell, there are about eight million vegans in the U.S.: about 2.5% of the population. Are they cookie consumers? Damn right they are. But, would you risk changing your top product to reach them? Wouldn’t it make more sense to create a new cookie that happens to also be vegan? Seems like the risk of alienating a rabid fan base far outweighs the vegan market opportunity.

Somebody in the marketing department says customers won’t notice the difference. Food production is a big, high tech business, and a lot of research goes into most products that reach grocery store shelves. I’m certain the decision to change the Thin Mint recipe wasn’t an easy one, but I wonder if it was made in an over-sized vacuum. When I was in high school, a little beverage producer named Coca-Cola decided to change the formula of its iconic soda. “New Coke” completely replaced the original formula for a few months in 1985, much to the dismay of customers, who rebelled against the new, sweeter taste (and horded bottles of the old version) until Coca-Cola returned to its original “Classic” formulation. If a company like Coke can screw up by messing with a classic recipe, then so can the Girl Scouts.

Who cares, controversy is good for business. Another theory is that the Girl Scouts have taken a calculated risk, knowing that controversy might be good for business. Perhaps the top scout leaders figure publicity about the switch to vegan-friendly cookies will more than counterbalance any blowback. Imagine public debates, taste tests, dunking vs. not dunking, etc. Not sure that calculus makes sense to me, but it could be a boon for Girl Scout executives who believe that any publicity is good publicity.

Perhaps I’m over-reacting, but changing the go-to Girl Scout cookie might be the first big reputational crisis of 2015.  If you don’t believe me, I suggest buying a box of Thin Mints and taking the taste test yourself.  Who knows, maybe the Thin Mint taste test goes viral and becomes this year’s version of the Ice Bucket Challenge. Regardless of what you think, buy some cookies — and donate a box to our troops overseas while you are at it.  In the meantime, please pass the milk.


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  1. I have them in my living room too. Have you tried the Thin Mints both out of the box and out of the freezer? Does that change your evaluation? I cannot taste the difference in the new Thin Mint cookie, but some of the girls say they can. The gluten free Toffee_tastic is pretty darn good if you can find one of the limited boxes available. I had the whole office try them and there is a unanimous verdict.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. I tasted one right out of the box and noticed a difference. That’s what drove me to write about it. I wonder if there will be backlash. It won’t come from me as we have boxes and boxes to sell at our house.

      1. My child is allergic to milk and eggs and as a Girl Scout was sad to not be able to join her friends in eating what she was selling. Hats off the GSA for including kids that can’t eat everything!!!

  2. According to Girl Scouts, they have not changed – they have always been Vegan (no eggs) They are just now advertising it. They taste the same, they are the same and I hope that your comments will not persuade anyone to not purchase these cookies. Many little girls are counting on your purchases to help raise funds for various causes. Troops overseas are counting on you buying these cookies and the generous donations the Girl Scouts and their customers provide for them.

    1. I’m not trying to discourage sales. In fact, I encourage taste testing and donations in my piece. Plus my daughter has cases and cases to sell.

  3. i’m glad they went vegan, its good for the environment, good for the earthlings around us. it is the right thing to do.
    since so many cookies are being sold of GS, this will make an impact on our environment!

    …but i bet they still use GMOS. wont go there.

  4. First of all the leader of the pack are the Samoans but that’s not important right now. Are they advertised as “Vegan”? Doesn’t that risk alienating the traditional loyal cookie-eating demographic? And will the healthy, vegan audience buy in the same quantities? You may end up getting used to the (unbought) boxes of cookies sitting in your kitchen….

    1. Rich, they are not advertised as vegan. Nothing on the box says so, but the word has come down from girl scout central that they are. And it is in all of their PR. But I don’t have concerns. Samoas are the same, thank goodness and a changed Thin Mint is better than no Thin Mint.

    1. thanks for reading and commenting. The Girl Scouts have a new gluten free cookie this year which has gotten great reviews. I believe it is called Toffee Tastic.

  5. I am really quite shocked as i re-read this that you made no mention of the GMO controversy that went viral last year, 2014 — eg. on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/RemoveGmOsFromGirlScoutCookies
    eg. online: http://www.naturalnews.com/039719_girl_scout_cookies_GMOs_petition.html
    and here also online: http://www.dietsinreview.com/diet_column/01/why-you-should-never-buy-girl-scout-cookies/
    it is a hot topic and controversial subject, and should be included in your article.

    also, there is no mention of the Palm Oil ingredient which was a controversy as well, back in 2011. they still use Palm Oil, a very cheap product that is amounts to HUGE expanses of deforestation (which may cause the end of all wild orangutans left in Borneo) and it was so controversial that they vowed to stop using the Palm Oil coming from Borneo and other “unsustainable forests” and added a logo on every package stating this. Yet they still won’t stop using Palm Oil for some strange reason (which also isn’t good for us, some studies show that it causes cancer…). http://www.dietsinreview.com/diet_column/01/why-you-should-never-buy-girl-scout-cookies/

    the more I studied the ingredients in Girl Scout cookies, the more I snuffed them and chose to go to Whole Foods to find an alternative.

    They can do much better.

    1. Rae, there’s no reason to be shocked. My point is that they changed the taste of their signature cookie. I’m not carrying the GMO/Palm oil/vegan vs. non-vegan flag. Frankly, I don’t know enough about it to speak intelligently about it.

  6. I seem to recall that maybe 30 years ago, the Girl Scouts sold Oreo-like cookies, and then one year they simply vanished. That was a big boo-hoo.

    1. Not sure I agree, Bob. Hard to compete with an Oreo — one man’s opinion. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  7. Too funny. I have them in my dining room as well. Hey, this could increase sales big time if the taste test challenge is accepted.

  8. I never came to like the taste of mint, except for toothpaste, so no big deal to me. I buy those cookies from our good friend’s daughters to support the cause…and well, okay, because “somoas” are an excellent breakfast food. Great post, like the perspective.

  9. Always entertaining and very good points John. We will be selling and we will be buying (as we have a Girl Scout in our house) but certainly don’t understand why any company would mess with a good thing-especially with the history and success behind this particular cookie. When our troop sells at Publix thin mints by far outsells every other variety and has for years. Hope that does not change. Personally I like them best out of the freezer with some vanilla ice cream!


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