The reason not all Girl Scout cookies taste the same

One organization, over 200 million boxes of cookies. With that kind of demand, you can understand why the Girl Scouts are using two suppliers to meet the nation's appetite for their iconic cookies. But both suppliers not only make cookies that look different, they also taste different... and in all cases except two, they even have different names.

The number of commercial bakeries making Girl Scout cookies has fluctuated throughout the cookie's 100 year history, from a high of 29 in 1948 to 14 in the 1960s and then four in 1978. By 1982, four bakers were making a maximum of seven cookie varieties: three mandatory flavors (Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Sandwich or Do-si-dos, and Shortbreads or Trefoils); the remaining four flavors were optional (via Girl Scouts).

Two bakeries make Girl Scout cookies today

Today, just two companies make Girl Scout cookies: Richmond, Virginia's ABC Bakers, who's been on the job since 1937, and Louisville, Kentucky's Little Brownie Bakers, who has been making the signature Samoas, Thin Mints, Tagalongs, Do-si-dos, and Trefoils for over 45 years (via Fortune).

But even Girl Scout cookies with the same name are not made the same way by each bakery, and as such, there are essentially two versions (and in most cases, two names) for each kind of Girl Scout cookie. 

The Girl Scouts say each local council can choose between ABC Bakers or Little Brownie Bakers when they place the order for their troops, so that what might be called a Shortbread by one company will be called a Trefoil by another; and even if Thin Mints and S'mores are made by both ABC Bakers and Little Brownie Bakers, they may as well be different cookies. A council's preference can also explain why the Girl Scout cookies you find in San Francisco may be completely different from the kind you find in Sacramento.

Only two kinds of Girl Scout cookies share the same name

Of all the Girl Scout cookies being sold by ABC and Little Brownie Bakers, only two share the same name: S'mores and Thin Mints. But as Wide Open Eats shows, they can be as different as night and day.

ABC Bakers' S'mores are covered with chocolate, have a light vanilla and marshmallow layer with a large graham cracker and contain 90 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, and 8 grams of sugar. Little Brownie Bakers' S'mores are sandwich cookies filled with frosting and fudge and have hints of maple. Each serving has 75 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, and 5 grams of sugar.

Likewise, ABC Bakers' Thin Mints are more crunchy and more minty than chocolate, and contain 40 calories, 1.75 grams of fat, and 2.75 grams of sugar. Little Brownie Bakers' Thin Mints have a rich, smooth coating of chocolate and a distinctive peppermint taste. Each serving has 40 calories, 2 grams of fat, and 2.5 grams of sugar.

Here's how other Girl Scout cookies vary

ABC Bakers makes Caramel DeLites that look like Samoas, but these are more cookie than caramel, have a milkier chocolate and features a vanilla flavored cookie. This treat packs 65 calories, 3 grams of fat and 6 grams of sugar. Little Brownie Bakers makes Samoas, which have a heavier caramel layer, a darker chocolate coating and more toasted coconut. Each serving has 70 calories, 4 grams of fat, and 5 grams of sugar.

Peanut Butter Patties from ABC Bakers feature vanilla-flavored cookies, a lighter peanut butter layer and have 65 calories, 3.5 grams of fat and 4 grams of sugar. Little Brownie Bakers' Do-si-dos have more layers of peanut butter inside the cookie, and pack 70 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, and 4 grams of sugar.

When it comes to ABC Bakers' Shortbreads, they have a sweeter, more vanilla taste, and pack 30 calories, 1.13 grams, and 1 gram of sugar per serving. Little Brownie Bakers' Trefoils, on the other hand, taste more buttery, and have 32 calories, 1.4 grams of fat, and 1.4 grams of sugar.

ABC Bakers has stuck to making Lemonade cookies, which are shortbreads with a lemony icing and pack 75 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, and 5 grams of sugar. Little Brownie Bakers, however, chose to retire the Savannah Smiles this year, and debut the crispy Lemon-ups in its place (via New York Post). The new treat has 140 calories per serving, 6 grams of fat, and 7 grams of sugar.