After entering a lot of data to our Chipography, I started to notice some odd variations on barbecue, er, BBQ, er Bar-B-Q chips.
Is there consistency in how chipmakers spell the word barbecue on their packaging?
The short answer: not a lot. What follows is the long answer.
Let’s first define barbecue. A typical barbecue chip is a melange of sweet, tangy, spicy and smoky. Common spices include paprika, brown sugar, onion, garlic, and tomato powder. For consistency’s sake, we’ll use “barbecue” as the common spelling.
How do you go about answering this question? I re-read every flavor entry on every page of our Chipography data (both brands and flavors) to find every possible permutation of barbecue. The data set included the 103 current active brands (Potato Chip World thought this is a representative sample size). Any extinct and fictional brands were omitted from the analysis. Sorry, Let’s.
Our data skews toward European and North American chips, which is fine for this exercise. Barbecue chips are very much an American-ish taste, so the most variations will appear in the US.
Of the 103 brands, 72 have a barbecue offering. There were five spelling variations of barbecue: Barbecue, Barbeque, BBQ, Bar-B-Q, and Bar-B-Que.
Table 1 shows the breakdown among the 72 brands. The most common spelling is the abbreviated BBQ.
Table 1: Spelling Variations on the Word Barbecue
Hang on a second: if there’s 72 brands that offer Barbecue chips, how can there be 80 total spellings?
Turns out that nine of the brands offer more than one barbecue flavor, but spell barbecue differently! For example, the “Barbecue” chips may be spelled as barbecue, but add Honey and it becomes “Honey BBQ.”
Table 2 shows the different flavor variations within the barbecue chips found in the Chipography. It’s top heavy with Standalone (no adjectives) occurring three times more frequently than the runner-up, Mesquite.
Table 2: Barbecue Flavor Variations
That’s a lot of Barbecue options. I’m partial to Beach.
With the spelling variations and the flavor variations, perhaps there’s overlap for a specific flavor. Our final check was to see if there’s consistency within the flavor variation. When barbecue is Standalone, does it always appear as just “BBQ”? Do Mesquite chips always use the abbreviated version?
Nope! No consistency there either. Table 3 shows that more than one barbecue spelling has been used on the most frequent flavor variations.
Table 3: use of barbecue on common flavor variations
In conclusion, the data demonstrates little rhyme or reason to the spelling of barbecue and the allocation of a specific barbecue spelling to a flavor variant.
My gut says BBQ is the easiest to spell, so it’s used most frequently. It’s three letters that stand out in a crowded chip aisle. An SOS for barbecue enthusiasts.
But if you’re worried about what to name your barbecue chip, don’t bother – you won’t break any style rules.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments.