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Spudman: Global TikTok Sensation Draws International Visitors To Tamworth Jacket Potato Van

Ben Newman's viral videos attract customers from around the world, making his humble potato van a tourist attraction.
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A jacket potato seller has been dubbed the new ‘Binley Mega Chippy’ after becoming a global TikTok sensation attracting visitors from across the world.

Ben Newman – aka Spudman – has seen customers queuing for up to three hours to get their hands on his famous spuds in the quaint market town of Tamworth, Staffs.

People have been flocking from as far as the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia to his humble jacket potato van after his videos took the internet by storm.

The 39-year-old now sells up to 1,500 jackets a day priced between £4 to £5 each after racking up 2.6 million followers and 41.6 million likes on TikTok.

A jacket potato seller has been dubbed the new ‘Binley Mega Chippy’ after becoming a global TikTok sensation attracting visitors from across the world. PHOTO BY ANITA MARIC/SWNS 

Dad-of-nine Ben says he has no idea how he became an unlikely tourist attraction for young people after originally joining TikTok to keep an eye on his children.

Since then, his simple videos of him sharing culinary tips and daily life as a jacket potato vendor on his trailer have exploded in popularity.

Ben has even earned his own personal fanbase in Hawaii and admits he is still baffled by his newfound fame and becoming a millennial craze.

Ben, of Burton-upon-Trent, Staffs., said: “I still can’t quite get my head around what’s happening. It’s just been crazy and absolutely mind-blowing.

“I have no social media training or experience. When my son, who is now 16, put TikTok in front of me I just thought ‘I need to keep an eye on you on this’.

“But I soon realized it wasn’t just for dancing girls, so I uploaded a few videos of me making a potato using just a Go-Pro and a decent camera.

“When they began hitting a few thousand views each I thought I could use this to promote the business. But I never expected what happened next.

People have been flocking from as far as the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia to his humble jacket potato van after his videos took the internet by storm. PHOTO BY ANITA MARIC/SWNS 

“It was October and we had around 400,000 followers, which I was chuffed with to be honest, then all of a sudden it started to explode.

“For no real reason that I’m aware of, some videos were getting millions of views. One has had almost 100 million views.

“We worked out if you sat down to watch that video 100 million times, you’d be watching it for 60 years.

“All of a sudden people from across the world were turning up – from South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and USA.

“The most surreal moment was this couple from Malaysia, who hadn’t come to the UK for a holiday – they came just solely to see me.

“They caught a flight to Gatwick and then hired a car to drive to little old Tamworth solely for a jacket potato.

“The amount of people I’ve been able to connect with and meet from all over the world is just crazy and incredibly humbling.

“Every single customer has been awesome. Its not just millennials, we have middle-aged families here too.

“We’ve become a tourist attraction. Our best seller is probably the classic cheese and beans.”

Ben says he can’t even walk through his hometown anymore without being stopped in the street due to his new local celebrity status.

His fame has spawned Spud Man merchandise sold online in the form of keyrings, tote bags, aprons and clothing,

He added: “It has opened up some incredible opportunities for me. I honestly can’t walk through town anymore without being stopped.

“I never sought celebrity status, I just wanted my little jacket potato van to do well. I won’t tour or open my own shop – I love my trailer too much.

“I just try to be authentic and honest and I think that’s what people like. I don’t really know, you’d need to ask them.”

Ben has been at the same location for more than 20 years after setting up his own business called Newman’s Catering at the age of 18.

He became Spudman around two years ago and believes his late father, who was a jacket potato merchant, would be proud of his recent success.

In the wake of the pandemic he started using his @spudarmy account to promote his business but said he “never believed” this would be the outcome.

Ben, who lives with partner Sarah Simpson,37, AKA Spudwife, said: “It’s all been beyond my wildest dreams.

“I just try and have fun with the videos. People seem to enjoy the livestreams but I enjoy filming people’s responses when I give them a free spud.

“I’ve seen the Binley Mega Chippy comparison but I like to feel we’ve worked a little harder than that.

“They were a meme and it happened by chance. We know it will drop off but we want to keep going for as long as we can and to put Tamworth firmly back on the map.

“If we do well, so does the town. Its all about promoting local businesses and also every jacket potato seller out there.

“There is one in your own town, go and support them.

“My grandad was a farmer and my dad was a jacket potato merchant, I think they would be proud.”

Ben sports a trademark pink mohawk, which he got to raise money for kidney research, after suffering his own health battles.

He suffered three failed kidney transplants – in 2014, 2016 and 2019 – and will be on dialysis for the rest of his life.

Last weekend he raised over £11,000 for Kidney Research UK by giving away 2,200 free jacket potatoes to people in the town.

He said: “There’s not a lot of dialysis patients who are as active as me and I want to try and show a positive side of it and help support the charity where I can.

“I’m trying to put out a positive message to them and that they can be normal whilst having kidney failure.”

Customer April Hall, 38, a support worker, travelled an hour from Telford, Shrops., to try a Spudman jacket potato with cheese and tuna yesterday (Tue).

She said: “Some of the guys I support have been going on about him for weeks after watching all of his stuff online.

“I’m not really into social media that much so it all seemed a bit bizarre to me but I promised them we would go and see him.

“We came early to avoid the queues and he is such a nice man. The jacket potato was lovely too.

“It’s amazing to see normal, down to earth people making it in life so credit to him. He has done really well to get this following and we were happy to support him.”

Another customer, McDonald’s manager Lewis Rochelle, 18, of Cannock Staffs., said: “I just wanted to see what the fuss was about.

“I paid £5 for a jacket with cheese and beans and it was really good, so it was well worth the trip.

“I saw his videos before Christmas when he had about a hundred thousand followers – but its just exploded.

“Every one in two videos is about him at the moment. It’s mad. I’ve not had to travel far but it was great to meet him and get a photo with him.”

Regular Lee Vickers, 29, of Tamworth, added: “Spud man has put Tamworth well and truly on the map – it’s unreal what he’s doing for himself.

“He deserves all the success in the world. He always puts the graft in, he’s a top guy and above all he sells top-quality hearty spuds.”

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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