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In a health-conscious world, what's a Girl Scout to do? As cookie booth sales progress apace, troops this year are adjusting their marketing, using words like "vegan" and "gluten-free."
In the Carolinas, colorful, glossy cookie order forms tout Thin Mints and Thanks-A-Lots, a shortbread cookie with a chocolate-coated bottom, as vegan options.
Mango Cremes are infused with a vitamin substance called NutriFusion. It's a vanilla and coconut sandwich cookie filled with fruity cream and "nutrients derived from fruit." As healthy as that may sound, Mango Cremes are still cookies, and each one is 60 calories.
When it comes to cookies, though, taste is still king. Despite the marketing push toward healthier options, traditional favorites like Peanut Butter Patties and Caramel Delites are still selling well, made the same way and with the same ingredients.
Whatever it is, it's working. This year, the Scouts expect to sell roughly 2.9 million boxes — more than 48 million cookies — across the state, according to representatives from South Carolina's two councils.
"For the last few years, we've been selling more and more each year," said Susan Schneider, advocacy director for one of the councils.
Schneider, who handles public relations for the Girl Scouts of South Carolina Mountains to Midlands Council, said her council alone sells about 2 million boxes a year.
With their neon-colored tennis shoes and gap-toothed grins, Girl Scouts could sell cookies without saying a word. But while a good attitude may be the only sales tool these young ladies need, Schneider said the goal is for them to learn business and interpersonal skills as well.
"This is more than buying a treat," she said. "Girls are learning everything from budgeting to management."
Girls also learn how to handle rejection, communicate with customers and be accountable for making accurate change.
A box of cookies costs $3.50. Of that revenue, 27 percent goes to the vendor, covering the production costs; 25 percent goes directly to the troop, and girls can decide how to spend the money, with many saving their earnings to take trips either in their backyards or as far as another continent. The remaining 48 percent goes to the council and is applied to membership dues for girls who cannot afford them, sending girls to camp and providing training sessions and materials for adult leaders, all of whom are volunteers.
At the Columbia service center, product sales assistant Paulene Cruse is in the middle of her third cookie season. Cruse helps oversee deliveries and keeps tabs on cookie shipments.
The orange tractor-trailer that arrived in the center's back parking lot last week held around 4,950 cases of cookies for Richland, Lexington and Kershaw counties. With each case holding 12 boxes, that comes to about 59,400 boxes of cookies.
Cruse said the center gets deliveries twice a week throughout the cookie season, but "if we're running low, it's more than that."
Cookie booths will be running every weekend until March 18. Daisies, Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes and Seniors can be found at your local BI-LO, Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and many more stores.
To get your cookie fix, download the free Girl Scout Cookie Finder app for iPhone or Android. To find a booth near you, use your in-phone GPS or type in a ZIP code.