In a divided country, we agree that biscuits and naan are awesome

Welcome to the first Odd Survey blog, where I do overly elaborate analysis of mundane, impractical topics that I personally find interesting! First up: bread preferences. I received 179 responses, which I dutifully analyzed.[1] This post contains aggregate analysis. Next week I’ll dive into some of the demographic differences.

But before we get to bread, I want to briefly touch on general meal consumption approach. As you can see on the chart below, roughly two thirds of the sample tend to rotate through their meals bite by bite. The remaining third is split evenly between people who tend to eat all of item 1, then consume all of the next item, and so on and people who mix everything together, often in a bowl. Yeah diversity!

Chart 1: Meal Pacing

Ok, without further ado, to the main event — bread preferences! Folks apparently feel strongly about bread. Many people bemoaned gluten intolerances, paleo diets, diabetes, and other factors that prevent them from consuming bread. Some people used the comments section to go on record regarding their bread passion:

  • Bread is really just the best.
  • I love bread.
  • Bread is beautiful.
  • I f***ing love bread all of the time every f***ing day.

For the survey, I asked respondents to rate 17 different types of bread on a scale of 1 to 5. I tried to get a diverse array of breads but limited to breads that most people will have encountered — it’s no use to survey folks on things they’re unfamiliar with. I also excluded all sweet breads because otherwise the survey would have largely been a proxy for whether or not people like sweet things.

Chart 2: Average Rating by Percent of People who have Tried Each Bread

The chart above has the average rating on the Y-axis. Breads that people liked are towards the top, and breads people don’t like are toward the bottom. On the X-axis, there’s the percent of respondents who have tried the bread. Of our 17 types of bread, 100% of respondents have eaten 7 of them, and 99% have at least tried another 5 of them.

Lots of fun insights jump out from this. First, biscuits are our big winners followed by naan. As someone from Alabama who’s married to someone of Indian descent, I’m thrilled everyone else recognizes how incredible these breads are. I’m also deeply sorry for the 1% of respondents who haven’t tried biscuits and the 3% who haven’t had naan. Y’all need to fix that, stat!

More good news is that the breads with the lowest ratings, injera and Texas toast, are the ones the fewest people have tried. So those of you don’t know what injera and Texas toast are, don’t sweat it! Apparently, you’re not missing much (but with a slight caveat we’ll come to in a bit).

The only other point I’ll make on this chart is rye. It’s not great, but 100% of respondents have tried it. I remember my own first experience eating rye. I instantly wondered why anyone made bread that tasted like that. It’s a bit of an unfortunate choice to be ubiquitous — don’t take it to parties!

While the average results are interesting, any good survey analyst knows what’s most fascinating are the differences in responses. In Chart 3, the Y-axis is the same as above — the average rating of each bread by respondents. But the X-axis is the standard deviation, a statistical measure of how diverse the results are. In this case, breads on the left side are those that most respondents felt similarly about — there was very little variation in ratings. Those on the right are those with divided opinions, where a large number of people rated the breads high and a large number rated them low.

Chart 3: Average Rating by Standard Deviation

Three groups of breads jump out to me from this chart. First, the blue circle on the left is what I call the “it’s fine posse”. All of these breads received middling ratings and have a very low standard deviation. That means almost everyone thinks they’re good but not great. If these breads are in front of people, they will get eaten, but no one is going to be excited when they see them.

The second group is what I call the “polarizers”, the orange circle in the bottom right. These breads have a fairly low average rating but a high standard deviation, meaning there is a sizable minority of respondents who absolutely love all of these breads. In fact, twice as many respondents declared these breads “amazing” as did pita, and four times as many people found them “amazing” than did wheat bread or English muffins. You all know people who can be put into a state of euphoria by these breads (me for Texas toast) and people who will do everything they can to avoid eating these breads (me for injera and steamed buns). Tread lightly.

Finally, I put sourdough in its own group of “Is it actually great?” Sourdough has the fifth highest overall rating, which means most respondents really like it. But it also has the third highest standard deviation, which means some people detest it. In fact, 5% of respondents declared it awful. So again, bring that loaf of sourdough to a party, picnic, or church supper, but be aware some people will tactfully avoid it and curse you under their breath.

That’s it for now. Feel free to share your reactions in the comments section, and stay tuned for the demographic analysis. And if you’re not on the survey list but would like to participate going forward, send an email to Bon appétit!

[1] I feel compelled to note for the survey gurus among you that this sample group is not representative of the general population. It’s basically friends and friends of friends. So take everything with a grain of salt. And a pat of butter. And maybe hummus.