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Inflation hitting where it hurts: The price of Girl Scout cookies is going up

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Inflation is hitting many parts of the economy, and now that includes Girl Scout cookies. That's right, a box of Do-si-dos will soon cost more dough in many parts of the country. And if you like S'mores, well, you might have to pay some more. The one and only NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Girl Scout troops in the Northeast made headlines this fall when they announced that cookie prices will be going up next season. That box of Samoas that used to sell for $5 will soon cost six to help cover rising ingredients and labor costs at the two commercial bakeries that make the cookies.

WENDY LOU: Like many other products that you're seeing out in the world, our Girl Scout cookies are not immune to a lot of the same rising costs.

HORSLEY: Wendy Lou is chief revenue officer for Girl Scouts of the USA. She's also the cookie manager for her 7-year-old daughter's Girl Scout troop in Connecticut.

LOU: She's a Brownie. That's part of the conversation that we'll have this year. It really is a little microcosm of what it's like to run your business and deal with the real pressures, including inflation.

HORSLEY: Many Girl Scout troops on the West Coast already raised their cookie prices earlier this year. Ten-year-old Madison Patstone says it was an adjustment. She'd already memorized the cost of up to 12 boxes of cookies at the old $5 price. Now she had to learn to multiply by six. She also had to explain to customers why their Thin Mint purchasing power is thinner than it used to be.

MADISON PATSTONE: People are like, here's 20, and then they picked out four cookie boxes. And we're like, oh, sorry. It's only three this year. And they're like, what? So that was one of the hard parts - telling that inflation has come to their nostalgic cookies.

HORSLEY: Patstone still managed to sell more than 2,400 boxes this year, making her one of the top sellers in San Diego. This was the first time Girl Scouts in San Diego had raised their prices since 2015. And the 20% increase is smaller than the 22% jump in the price of store-bought cookies over the last two years. Ashley Hilliard, who's been selling Girl Scout cookies for a decade, says most customers were understanding.

ASHLEY HILLIARD: If they asked about the price increase, you know, we would very politely explain, like, unfortunately, due to the inflation going on across the country right now, we've had to up our rates so that we can still make a profit and provide these programs for girls.

HORSLEY: Proceeds from the cookie sale cover about 70% of the Girl Scouts' budget in San Diego. Each council sets its own prices. But neighboring councils often move together in what you might call the tagalong effect. Carol Dedrich, who heads the San Diego council, says all the Girl Scouts in California raised their prices to $6 this year. They saw little, if any, drop in sales.

CAROL DEDRICH: Most of us, if not all of us, had a very successful cookie program. Here in San Diego, we had the best program since prior to COVID.

HORSLEY: Nationwide, Girl Scouts sell about 200 million boxes of cookies every year. That's more than Oreos, even though Girl Scout cookies are only on sale for a few months each year. Sally Lyons Wyatt knows a thing or two about the cookie business.

SALLY LYONS WYATT: I've been a snacking expert for a couple of decades.

HORSLEY: Lyons Wyatt is an executive vice president with a big market research firm, Circana. She's also a former Girl Scout. She does not expect the $1 price increase to take much of a bite out of sales.

LYONS WYATT: Because it isn't just about a cookie, right? Now, granted, if they did something crazy like it's going to cost you 20 bucks for one little package, OK, well, then maybe we would find that there's a cliff. But if we're talking about a nominal price increase, then I don't think it's going to have an impact on demand.

HORSLEY: Back in San Diego, Madison Patstone's already setting goals for the next selling season when she hopes to top her own record by selling 2,500 boxes.

MADISON: Because the season isn't very long, you'll have to wait a whole year to get them again. So I might as well just stock up.

HORSLEY: A freezer full of Girl Scout cookies might be a good hedge against future inflation, as long as you don't eat them all at once.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF AKEMI FOX SONG, "SO FINE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.

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