Door-to-door Girl Scout cookie sales have begun in Eastern North Carolina, and, for the first time, some of the Scouts will be selling a gluten-free version.
Troops in N.C. Coastal Pines, the Raleigh-based Girl Scout council that operates in 41 central and eastern counties, have been holding kickoff parties to get the girls excited about selling cookies door-to-door starting Saturday and at booths in grocery stores and shopping malls starting Jan. 24.
The annual cookie sales generate about $790 million for the Girl Scouts of the USA, which refers to the cookie program as the largest girl-run business in the world. About 70 percent of proceeds remain within each council, with the rest covering the cost of production and distribution and providing prizes for the girls, such as movie tickets or iPods.
Scouting officials say the cookie sales help teach girls skills such as setting goals and managing money, while the revenue enables Girl Scout councils to provide education and training in areas such as first aid/CPR, math, science, leadership and outdoor exploration. It also provides scholarships for girls to attend summer camps.
Last year, 13,381 girls in the N.C. Coastal Pines council sold 3.024 million boxes of cookies and donated more than 95,000 boxes to troops deployed overseas. The average girl sold about 226 boxes, up 4.7 percent from the previous year. Between now and March 1, the last day of cookie sales, the council hopes to sell 3.08 million boxes.
N.C. Coastal Pines is one of 20 out of 112 councils nationwide selling the new cookies without gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley and rye that some humans cannot digest. Packaged in a resealable bag rather than a box, the Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookie has no artificial flavors or colors and no high-fructose corn syrup, according to ABC Bakers of Richmond, Va., one of two suppliers of Girl Scout cookies.
With an increase in awareness of gluten intolerance and of health in general, a growing number of people have expressed interest in a gluten-free cookie, said Krista Park, communications director for the council.
People say, If were going to eat sweet, we should eat the best for us, Park said.
But they will pay more for it. The gluten-free cookies cost $5, while any of the eight other varieties cost $3.50 a box. Gluten-free products tend to be more expensive because of the complex flour mixtures it takes to make up for the lack of the gluten protein.
Girls can choose to pre-order the gluten-free cookie along with the other eight options: Thanks-A-Lot, Lemonades, Shortbread, Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Patties, Caramel Delights, Peanut Butter Sandwich and another new variety, Cranberry Citrus Crisps. If the gluten-free cookies sell well, they may return next year and reach a broader market.
Xena Gray, 12, a Girl Scout Cadette from Troop 15 in Cary, thinks the gluten-free cookies will do fine. She has ordered 180 boxes of them.
I have heard from several people who are gluten free and say that they are fantastic and that they would definitely buy them, Xena said.
Xena has sold Girl Scout cookies since she was in first grade, when she sold 500 boxes. Last year, she placed second in the N.C. Coastal Pines Council by selling 3,041 boxes. This year, she plans to sell close to 5,000 boxes.
On an average day in a grocery store, Xena said five to 10 people ask for a gluten-free cookie. In a shopping mall, 15 to 20 might ask for it.
The cookie didnt strike my palate, she said, but she added that its a treat for someone with a gluten intolerance.
If theyre on the (gluten-free) diet, they just dont buy cookies, she said.