Skip to Content

The Italian Owner of Nutella Just Bought the Rights to Make Girl Scout Cookies

When the Italian confectionary brand Ferrero takes ownership of a chunk of Kellogg’s business later this year, the company behind Nutella will also claim a stake in one of America’s most beloved brands: Girl Scout cookies.

On Monday, The Ferrero Group, which grew out of a family pastry shop in the years after WWII, announced it would purchase several brands from Kellogg Company for $1.3 billion, with the deal expected to be completed in the second half of the year.

Ferrero bought a slate of sweet snack brands from Kellogg’s including Keebler, Famous Amos, and—notably—Little Brownie Bakers, one of only two bakeries that produce Girl Scout cookies.

The overall purchase will allow Ferrero to develop a portfolio of well-established and popular brands, “and capitalize on exciting new growth opportunities in the world’s largest cookies market,” Lapo Civiletti, CEO of the Ferrero Group, said in a release.

In a further statement, Ferrero said the transaction was expected to close in the second half of this year, and noted, “it’s still early days.”

“We are still developing our integration plans and we will be thoughtful and transparent in our decisions on how to proceed,” the company said.

In buying Little Brownie Bakers, Ferrero gets the rights to make the Girl Scouts cookies that are sold annually by members of the leadership development organization. The utterly iconic Thin Mints, Do-Si-Dos, and Samoas are appreciated for their rarity and exclusivity—not to mention their adorable, yet savvy saleswomen—but perhaps under-appreciated in terms of the market share they claim.

Girl Scouts Sell Cookies From Street Trucks In New York City
Girl Scouts sell about 200 million boxes of cookies annually, a nearly $1 billion business. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore Getty Images

From February to April every year—official ‘cookie season’—more than 1 million girls sell around 200 million boxes of the treats, an $800 million business. That easily makes them one of America’s best-selling cookie brands.

The Scouts’ cookie-selling practice dates back to as early as 1917, when troops began selling them to raise money for activities, but the Girl Scouts have also modernized: they now have a “digital cookie platform” to track sales and book orders. They also accept Visa cards.

Kentucky-based Little Brownie Bakers manufactures and supplies the cookies to Girl Scout troops, and is licensed to provide eight varieties of cookies, the company says on its website.

The company’s factory in Louisville has baked Girl Scout cookies since 1974, alongside other Kellogg’s cookie brands. Since 2001, it’s received millions of dollars from Kellogg’s and the state of Kentucky to update its facilities and keep its doors open, according to Louisville’s Courier-Journal.

There’s only one other bakery that’s licensed to make Girl Scout cookies: the Richmond, Virginia-based ABC Bakery.

In a statement to Fortune, the Girl Scouts of the USA said the organization “looks forward to partnering with the new ownership of Little Brownie Bakers to ensure a seamless transition into the 2020 Girl Scout Cookie season and the continued success of the Girl Scout Cookie Program.”

Local Girl Scout councils can choose which factory supplies their cookies. That’s why different varieties of the cookies exist, the two factories produce different types. So in theory, if the Scouts end up disliking the Ferrero experience, they can take their business to the factory in Virginia.

But the ABC factory isn’t American-owned either. It’s under the umbrella of Weston Foods, which also makes Wonder Bread and is headquartered in Toronto.

This story has been updated to include a statement from the Girl Scouts and Ferrero.