THE humble jacket potato has been a food staple in homes in British homes since the mid-19th century, but they’re not just a cheap and tasty meal, they’re also the reason one man has become a social media icon.
Ben Newman, 39, is the viral TikTok sensation known to most people as Spudman – and people come from far and wide just to get a taste of his jacket spuds.
Ben lives and works in Tamworth, a town that’s now synonymous with the unlikely influencer, with his wife, Sarah Simpson, who he’s fondly nicknamed Spudwife, and their nine kids.
Despite now boasting over 2.3 millions followers, Ben only started on TikTok to keep an eye on his bumper brood, who were avid users of the app.
Speaking to Staffordshire Live when TikTok first started taking off, Ben said: “The amount of people I’m able to connect from all over the world is just crazy.
“My kids were on it and I just downloaded it to keep an eye on them.
“I soon realised it wasn’t just for dancing girls, so I uploaded a few videos of me making a potato.
“They began hitting a few thousand views each and I was just like ‘wow’.”
He then continued using the video sharing app to give his business a boost after Covid.
And even though the crazy levels of sucess might be new for the foodie, the food business isn’t.
He started his business at just 18-years-old and has traded in Tamworth’s St Editha’s Square for 20 years and counting.
Although his business has remained successful over the years, his recent catapult to fame has spread further than just Tamworth, and even the UK.
In one clip, Ben shows two customers who flew all the way from Malaysia just to get a taste of the famous jacket potatoes, and other customers have jetted in from the US as well, something the business owner still can’t quite wrap his head around.
The spud sensation now sells up to 1,000 meals a day and has had to hire extra staff to keep up with the rising remand.
The cheap and cheerful potatoes are priced from £2 for a plain jacket potato with butter, up to £5 for more fillings.
Popular choices include the classic cheese and beans, chili con carne, tuna, coleslaw, and even chicken curry.
Giving back to the community
Ben decided to do a “free day” in a bid to give back to his town earlier this year, which turned out to be more of a hit than he could’ve ever predicted.
Fans started queueing from 7am for the free grub and the lines stretched across the town centre, bringing life to the high street.
“You’re nuts, I think you’re bloody crazy queueing up three hours for a jacket spud,” Ben told fans on TikTok after the busy day, and thanked them for all their support.
The event also raised £10,899 raised for kidney research, something close to Ben’s heart.
The dad-of-nine suffers from kidney failure and has had three failed transplants in the past.
He revealed he isn’t likely to have another due to his body rejecting them and is now a a renal dialysis patient, which involves weekly procedures at home.
What’s next for Spudman?
After the whirlwind of Ben’s ‘free day’ he confessed he’s probably nearing the peak of his viral success.
“We’re doing good, we’ve got amazing content to keep this going.
“I think we’re just going to level off to a manageable level,” he told fans.
As for the haters, Ben said his triumph is about more than just spuds, and the people who are naysayers don’t understand that.
“It’s not just for a jacket spud, it’s to show your support, you can get a jacket spud anywhere, we know that,” he said.