Cookie-mergency: Girl Scout goodies are in short supply

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Chocolate milk in Maine. Cream cheese in New York City. Granite for headstones in Mississippi.

And now, Girl Scout cookies in big swaths of Southern California.

Nothing, it seems, is safe from pandemic-fueled supply chain problems. Even those smiling, sashed salesgirls have been forced to scramble this winter for supplies to peddle online or on folding tables in front of grocery stores.

Deep in cookie-selling season, when Girl Scouts raise critical funds to pay for the year’s activities, Samoas and S’mores are hard to find. And that’s a blow for Scouts in greater Los Angeles because troops can receive up to $1 for every box their members sell.

On the plus side, there seems to be no shortage of No. 1-selling Thin Mints — at least not yet. You can still find Trefoil shortbreads and peanut butter Tagalongs.

There are reportedly shortages of S’more and Samoa (shown above) Girl Scout cookies in greater Los Angeles.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

But coconut-, caramel- and chocolate-striped Samoas (known in some regions as Caramel deLites, the second-most popular cookie in the Scouts’ lineup) are another story entirely. And so are S’mores, a relatively new offering with non-GMO ingredients.

“Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles (GSGLA) has been informed by Little Brownie Bakers (LBB), our cookie baker, that supply chain and labor shortage issues are affecting their ability to deliver the cookies we’ve ordered,” GSGLA said in a statement to The Times. “We are working hard with LBB to resolve this situation.”

Kentucky-based Little Brownie Bakers offered a terse written statement: “We are working diligently to fulfill orders and get cookies into the hands of hard-working Girl Scouts. We appreciate our cookie fans’ support of Girl Scouting and their patience this season.”

These Girl Scouts could sure use a few more boxes.

Victoria, 10, Alyssa, 11, and Valentina, 7, were selling cookies in front of a Granada Hills grocery store on a recent Friday night, cheerily greeting customers and judiciously keeping tabs on each $5 sale.

The girls, whose parents requested that their last names not be used, had a small supply of Samoas and no S’mores.

“It’s still fun,” Alyssa said. “It’s not like we’re all out of every single cookie.”

The girls said they looked forward to cookie selling every year — shortage or no.

“Especially when you do it with friends,” Alyssa said, putting her arms around Victoria and Valentina.

Josh Goldstein bought 10 boxes of Girls Scout cookies for himself and some for his friends.

Josh Goldstein bought 10 boxes of Girls Scout cookies for himself and some for his friends.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

The squeeze is being felt in San Diego, where troops extended the selling season by two weeks into late March. Cookie deliveries to the Girl Scouts of Orange County have been delayed amid transportation issues with that group’s supplier, ABC Bakers.

And it is dire for the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles, according to emails sent to troops this month.

In a Feb. 4 email, the GSGLA said Girl-Delivery — in which customers can order cookies online and have them hand delivered by a Scout — would shut off that day for S’mores. And so would Direct-Ship options.

Those options would remain open for Samoas until “our on-hand supply is depleted,” the organization said. As of Feb. 27, Samoas were available via the Digital Cookie portal; customers must purchase at least four boxes and pay shipping costs.

“We have a supply of both in our cupboards and local warehouses now but do not know if or how soon this supply will be replenished,” the organization wrote, adding that troops should be “sisters to all Girl Scouts” by not overstocking on those items.

GSGLA, which represents 32,000 Scouts across Los Angeles, Kern and San Bernardino counties, and the bakery are being tight-lipped about the extent of the shortages and other details, declining to answer questions about how many boxes of the treats will not be available and when supplies might be replenished.

They would not say whether the supply chain problems are on the front end — for example, that the bakeries cannot get important ingredients delivered and therefore cannot bake enough cookies. Or if they’re on the back end — that cookies are sitting in warehouses and there’s no way to get them to their destinations.

The Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles did not provide additional information outside of its statement citing ongoing negotiations with the bakery. Calls to the Girl Scouts’ national office have not been returned.

Chris Hillman buys Girl Scout Cookies from Madar Mee and Emma Diaz

Chris Hillman, middle, buys Girl Scout cookies from Emma Diaz, 7, left, and Madar Mee, 10, in Mar Vista.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Other regions of the country have seen their own cookie snafus. In January, NPR reported that the Washington, D.C., area has had a shortage of the Scouts’ newest offering, a confection called Adventurefuls. The Girl Scouts’ website describes the treat as “an indulgent brownie-inspired cookie with caramel-flavored crème and a hint of sea salt.”

But the pain has not been spread evenly. The Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast, which has troops from Ventura County to Santa Cruz County, has not experienced similar shortages.

“Girl Scout cookies are currently produced by two licensed bakeries, one of which has reported production delays for a small percentage of cookies,” the Central Coast organization said in a statement. “Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast is not affected by that shortage.”

The Southern California shortage is an ironic twist for the Girl Scouts after the 2021 season, when the organization ended up with a massive cookie surplus.

Unable to sell through traditional booths at grocery stores, libraries and other locations because of the pandemic, many troops went digital-only. They ended up with an extra 15 million boxes of cookies, 12 million of which never left the warehouses.

For the girls, the current cookie shortage is affecting the lessons and skills cookie-selling is meant to instill, such as self-confidence and responsibility.

“The bigger thing for me and our girls is that they’ve tried to sell cookies and then they’re not going to have cookies to fill their orders,” said Rita Satuloff, mother of 12-year-old Scout Shayden. “They’re possibly going to have to contact people and say, ‘I’m sorry, you ordered these cookies, but I can’t get them to you.’

“It makes it very awkward for our 12-year-old,” added Satuloff, who serves as Troop 71045’s accountant. The family lives in Venice.

“What it’s going to do is … shy her away from approaching people in the future,” said Mathew Satuloff, Shayden’s father. “We’ve taught them a lot of skill but not how to disappoint people.

“Let’s save that for the adults,” he said.

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