New gluten-free Girl Scout cookie popular

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Shelly Birkelo
Sunday, March 2, 2014

JANESVILLE—When Don Starks eats food made with grains he gets sick to his stomach and lethargic.

That's because he has celiac disease, an autoimmune digestive disease where the body attacks itself every time a person consumes gluten--a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.

So when the 54-year-old Janesville man learned that his granddaughter Kristin Sedwick was selling gluten-free Girl Scout cookies this year he got excited.

“It's a treat and a good thing,” Starks said.

Starks bought two boxes of the new chocolate chip shortbread cookie that cost $5 each.

The Girl Scouts created the bite-size gluten-free shortbread cookie filled with real chocolate chips to appeal to the millions of Americans--about one in 133--who have problems eating food with gluten.

The cookie was premiered in a number of test markets this year, including the Badgerland Council of Girl Scouts that serves girls in south central and southwest Wisconsin.

More than 440 cases of the gluten-free cookies were requested by Badgerland Girl Scout troops. Only 177 cases were received because the local council was not able to order additional gluten-free cookies from the bakery, said Christy Gibbs, marketing director, in an email.

"We had a separate gluten-free form with a deadline date to order. Those troops that requested the cookies by that deadline, did receive them, although not necessarily as many gluten-free cookies as they wanted. We knew that gluten-free would be popular but frankly it was surprising just how much demand there was from the troops," she said.

Troop 3154 had already sold all of their gluten-free cookies before hosting a booth sale Sunday afternoon at Gander Mountain.

The troop received 1.5 cases and a total of 18 boxes of the gluten-free cookies that “were pretty much sold before sales began because the word was out there and people knew we were selling them,” said Leigh Remington, troop leader.

The family of Girl Scout Evelyn Paull, 6, who is a member of Troop 3154 and is gluten intolerant, bought two boxes of the cookies. Evelyn sold another eight others boxes of the new cookie.

Last year Evelyn's mother Elizabeth Paull didn't know if Evelyn even wanted to sell Girl Scout cookies because she didn't know what they tasted like, which made her “sad.”

“The new gluten-free cookie brought back her enthusiasm and showed the (Girl Scouts) organization cared about us and included us,” Elizabeth said.

Knowing she could eat and sell the gluten-free cookie, she described as tasting “good,” makes Evelyn “happy.”

The gluten-free cookie is part of a two-year pilot program, so it will be back for at least one more year, Gibbs said.

“It will be up to Badgerland Council to determine if we want to participate in the pilot again next year. That decision will be made at the conclusion of this year's program to assess how it worked,” she said.

If they are made available to Badgerland Girl Scouts, Remington has no doubt her troop could sell lots more of these cookies.

“We can't fill the requests we get. When we had booth sales we didn't even bring them with because we didn't have any to sell. I probably could have sold two or three cases with just my twins,” she said referring to her daughters in her troop.

Elizabeth Paull said with so many friends and family—at least five—who are gluten-intolerant, “we could have sold as many as we could have gotten our hands on.”

The Girl Scout cookie program is the largest girl-run business in the world and teaches girls how to set goals, make decisions, manage money, develop people skills and business ethics, Gibbs said.

Sale proceeds stay in the community and the girls get to decide how to spend the profits.

Members of Troop 3154 are working toward winning a trip to a Wisconsin Dells resort, Remington said.

“We do a lot of smaller things, too, like visiting the elderly, bowling and ice skating.”

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