From Homemade to Nationwide: Virginia's Sweet Influence on Girl Scout Cookies

Posted: March 12, 2024

Limit the supply to increase the demand. That economic principle is put into practice every spring as millions of Girl Scouts hit the streets with a fresh batch of much-anticipated cookies. And just in time too, because that freezer stash of Thin Mints® just ran out!

What started as a fundraiser for a single troop in 1917 is now an annual, nationwide affair. But prior to the 1930s, you couldn't get Trefoils® from coast to coast. In the roaring 20s, Girl Scouts in different parts of the country baked their own cookies, packaging them in wax paper bags sealed with a sticker. A decade later, the national Girl Scout organization started using commercially baked desserts—made here in Virginia!

Founded in Richmond in 1899, Southern Biscuit Company became a national brand under the name Famous Foods of Virginia. In 1937, Southern Biscuit Company landed a pretty sweet new job, becoming the first officially licensed baker of Girl Scout cookies. With this official designation came a momentous innovation that gives new meaning to a fresh idea!

Southern Biscuit Company was the first to introduce aluminum foil packaging for its goods. According to mid-century ads from the company, this packaging technique helped cookies stay nine times fresher than other products. Cookies that stay fresher longer = more boxes Girls Scouts could sell as people didn’t have to consume the confections immediately.

Cookie Factory Lofts behind the Dome

Now part of Interbake Foods Inc., the Southern Biscuit Company is one of America’s largest cookie and cracker producers, manufacturing 640,000 cookies per oven per hour. Until Interbake Foods moved their headquarters in 2006, thousands of cookies were produced at the company’s factory less than a block away from the Science Museum. The building, aptly named the Cookie Factory Lofts, still stands today—hey, neighbor!

Girl Scouts are smart cookies. When it was time to scale up their fundraising efforts, they knew they needed some Virginia innovation to help get the job done! Check out a vintage Southern Biscuit Company tin, and learn about other important inventions and innovators from Virginia, by visiting the products showroom in The Forge.

A 1940s Southern Biscuit Company Cookie Tin (left) and a 2019 Peanut Butter Patties® Girl Scout Cookies Box (right) on display at the Science Museum of Virginia.