(Bloomberg) -- If your TikTok algorithm doesn’t factor in news from the UK, you might still be unaware of the jacket potato mania that’s raging throughout Britain.

You’re in the minority. Over the last six months, videos of jacket potatoes with no-nonsense toppings like tuna mayonnaise or baked beans—a staple of UK home-cooking that Americans will recognize as an alternate universe version of a loaded baked potato—have racked up hundreds of millions of views. It’s even brought people from halfway around the world to the center of England to sample this culinary craze. (Americans that have become familiar with TikTok’s tuna salad stuffed jacket potatoes are not generally sold on the subject.) 

Ben Newman, aka “Spudman,” has a hard time explaining the phenomenon. “I’m sure we’re good, but we are just a humble spud van,” he says.  An average Spudman TikTok video that shows him stuffing a mundane baked potato in his food truck routinely get 30 million views, sometimes more than 100 million. And the hearty food trend has showed no signs of slowing, even with the arrival of summer. 

Before going viral, Newman would sell around 300 jacket potatoes a day from his van in Tamworth, Staffordshire, a business he’s had for 22 years.  In 2020 he started posting videos on TikTok to keep customers coming during the pandemic. By the middle of 2023, around 350,000 followers—a mix of Brits who liked the familiarity and international viewers intrigued by typical British fare—were watching him bake potatoes and chat with customers.


Another 3B from yesterday. #spudman #tamworth #spudarmy #bakedpotato #jacketpotato

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After a random 2023 video of a jacket potato attracted around half a million views, his following skyrocketed to a current tally of around 3.5 million. 

Those followers have sparked demand: Business has jumped around 400% since Newman began making TikTok videos, and he now sells up to 1,500 potatoes a day to customers who sometimes queue for hours. With potatoes starting at £4 ($5) for options such as cheese and beans, he’s taking in several thousand pounds a day. (Newman won’t confirm his sales figures.)

So far, Newman hasn’t been hit by a shortage of potatoes, but he’s not ruling it out. “We source our potatoes locally to keep food miles down,” he says. “I’m worried the potato farmer won’t be able to keep up.” Spudman customers even have an impact on Tamworth’s shops and cafes, as they fortify themselves with cups of coffee and bottles of water before heading to the van. “The knock-on effect for the whole town has been great too,” says Newman. “Lots of local businesses come to me and say they’ve had the best January and February they’ve ever had.”

Customers are driving for hours, even getting on flights. “One guy flew to Gatwick from the Philippines, hired a car, drove up to meet us and eat a potato, stayed overnight in a hotel and then flew back,” relates Newman. “One of our customers last week was from Wyoming.”

But recently, the local jacket potato scene has been rocked by the arrival of the Spud Bros, who’ve launched a jacket potato van in Preston, Lancashire, a two-hour drive away. Its 1.7 million TikTok followers are treated to videos of brothers Jacob and Harley Nelson baking potatoes with traditional toppings, along with the Lancashire specialty, parched peas. 

The Spud Bros appearance has led to clashes between fans of the two accounts. Spudman says he doesn’t mind the new jacket potato stars. “Imitation is the finest form of flattery,” he says. “It’s like Ronaldo/Messi,” said Harley Nelson on a podcast. “We respect each other, but we need that rivalry.”

Danny Malin, host of the YouTube channel Rate My Takeaway, labels the rivalry “jacket potato wars.”  While he ever so slightly prefers Spud Bros, he says both are notable. He prefers Spudman’s homemade chicken curry and coleslaw, but likes the Spud Bros’ flavored butters. Still, customers are “not going for the potato, they're going to meet Spudman, and to go on their feed and to put it on their TikTok,” Malin says. “It’s for their claim to fame.”

Unsurprisingly, other vendors are jumping in. Lauren Jones is the operator of the Baked Potato Company by Tatie Lady. Last autumn she debuted her van in Barnsley, West Yorkshire. On opening day, the wait was two hours.


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After Spudman offered a day of free jacket potatoes in January, business got even more intense for Jones. “Everyone got an obsession with jacket potatoes,” she says, which led to increased demand at her own van. She now sells around 400 potatoes a day.

“I think people like it, because it’s traditional,” Jones says, in an effort to explain the phenomenon. Plus, for under £5, you can get a meal that’s cheaper than fast food options — her potatoes start at £3, while the price of a fish and chips order is now routinely in the double digits. “It’s a proper British staple food and comfort food, but it’s not unhealthy either,” she says. “When I go on holiday and come home, the first thing I want is a jacket.” 

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