Dunkin Donuts Buttered Bagel - Detail - © Boston Globe

Just For Fun: Poll Reveals Canadians’ Bagel Preferences…

I guess it’s officially the season for publishing the previous year’s ‘Best Of’ and ‘Top Ten’ lists. Today, we look into Dempster’s Bakeries new findings on Canadians’ tastes in bagels, based on a detailed poll conducted by Maru Group. They also surveyed customers about fave go-withs…

Sesame Seed Montreal Bagels - © Bageltime.caTraditional Sesame Seed Montreal Bagels, fresh out of the wood-fired oven.

I missed National Bagel Day!

It slipped by on January 15, when I was concentrating on the latest edition of Fast Food Week. Anyway…

Like I said, this is all just for fun. I don’t present Dempster’s findings with any kind of warranty as to their accuracy or completeness. But I kind of like the notion of taking a scientific approach to something as casual and subjective as The Nation’s Preference in Bagels. I’d be just as playfully enthusiastic about a poll that revealed folks’ preferences in movie lobby munchies or Hot Dog toppings. (And I’m pretty sure there are such polls out there somewhere.)

But let’s get down to business, even if it is ‘funny business’…

Bagels are really popular

For a start, only about 16 percent of those polled said they don’t eat bagels at all. That means a whopping 84 percent of us do eat them, at least once a month.

The breakdown of how many bagels we eat is also pretty interesting:

  • 22 percent eat bagels once or twice a month
  • 18 percent eat bagels once or twice a week
  • 16 percent eat bagels 3-4 times a week
  • 6 percent eat bagels more than 4 times a week.

Sweet or savoury?

Okay. I’ll admit it: I would have guessed that most folks like a savoury bagel. And I’d have been right. It’s a no-brainer. After all, there are many more savoury varieties than  there are sweet ones. And that diversification of flavours has been driven by demand from consumers.

  • 53 percent of bagel lovers love theirs savoury
  • 16 percent like them sweet (i.e.- Cinnamon and Raisin or Blueberry)
  • 31 percent will order savoury or sweet depending on when and where they are eating them.

When do you eat your bagel(s)?

The short answer is ‘anytime’. In fact 36 percent of those polled said they’d grab a bagel any time of the day or night. But the breakdown reveals a definite preference…

  • 65 percent want a bagel for breakfast
  • 29 percent want their bagel at lunch
  • 18 percent choose a bagel for a snack.

What do you top yours with?

Poll subjects were asked to list all the things they eat on a bagel:

  • cream cheese (73%)
  • butter (69%)
  • cheese/cheddar (59%)
  • egg (55%)
  • bacon (40%)
  • jam (44%)
  • peanut butter (41%)
  • ham (38%)
  • tomato (33%)
  • turkey (32%)
  • chicken (29%)
  • salmon (28%)
  • avocado (27%)
  • tuna (23%)
  • Nutella/chocolate spread (22%),
  • guacamole (18%)

Other toppings mentioned (each by 15 percent or less of respondents) included: pickle (15%), pesto (10%), hot sauce (9%), fruits (9%), ranch sauce (8%), ketchup (8%), barbecue sauce (7%), Greek yogurt (5%), nuts (4%), sweets/cereal (3%), marshmallows (2%), crackers/wafers/chips (2%), and granola (2%). I think it would be fair to say, some folks will eat anything on a bagel!

How the few became the many

Searching the internet for other polls that ranked the various bagel flavours by preference, I came across a whole slew of them – but none of them agreed with any of the others about what the definitive bagel flavours are.

Various polls and personal preference lists name as many as 23 flavours of bagels, some of which I’ve never heard of before. Therefore – since this my blog, and my preferences ultimately rule! – I’ve done my best to digest the results of the other rankings and come up with something reasonably representative of what Canadians really like.

A little history…

First though, I have to comment on the proliferation of bagel variants over the years I’ve been eating them. Once there was only the Plain Montreal Bagel. There was also the sometimes-salt-sprinkled New York Bagel, found at hundreds of carts scattered across the streets of Manhattan. Also popular in New York was the city’s signature Soft Pretzel – a knotted rope of bagel-like dough made in a similar way. Lots of rock salt on those!

When I started eating bagels in earnest, back in 1978, there were only two authentic bagel bakeries in Ottawa, with wood-fired ovens and an allegiance to the traditional Montreal recipe. They produced three ‘flavours’ based on what was sprinkled on top: Plain, Sesame and Poppy Seed. Pumpernickel appeared next, I think, followed by Cinnamon Raisin and Blueberry. After that, all sorts of other ‘flavours’ appeared, based both on sprinkles and inclusions in the bagels themselves.

I’ve stuck pretty much to Plain, Sesame and (more recently) Whole Wheat, Whole Grain and Everything bagels over the years.

Preferences among the masses now

According to an analysis of supermarket scanning data from across the U.S, the top-5 flavours included Plain (how could it not be high on the list?), Cheese, Blueberry, Whole Wheat, and Cinnamon. Everything, Multigrain, and Onion and Garlic placed comfortably in the top 10. Alas for my classic tastes, Sesame and Poppy were way down the list, but they’re still stocked at most supermarkets that are truly serious about their Bakery Departments. There is obviously a strong base of traditionalists out there!

If you want to see which flavours fared best and worst in recent rankings, just Google ‘bagel flavour rankings’, for a selection of posts that will prove, if nothing else, that everybody has their own opinion!

~ Maggie J.