The great British mashed potato boom

Here’s some news…

Sales of mashed potato are flying in the UK!

At first, you might think this is fine.

Why would this story be controversial?

Well, because of this…

It’s not WHOLE POTATOES that are soaring in popularity…

We’re not talking about people mashing potatoes at home, as they’ve been doing for centuries.

I’m talking about READY-MASHED potatoes.

Ready cooked, ready salted, ready buttered, ready milked, ready everything.

According to Tesco, the demand for ready-meal mashed spuds was already rising shortly before the pandemic.

There was a reversal of this trend during the two lockdowns, when people had time to cook whole potatoes from scratch.

However, in 2023, sales skyrocketed again.

While regular mashed potato is most popular, the supermarket chain says that demand for sweet potato mash rocketed by more than 100% last year.

The BBC reports that “Demand increased further through the cost-of-living crisis, with mash seen as an inexpensive and homely old favourite.”

Now, I have a few thoughts on this, as you can imagine!

First – I get that people are time-poor and cash-strapped.

But how long does it take to cook a potato?

About 20 minutes.

What’s more you don’t need to do anything in that 20 minutes.

No stirring, no checking, no adding anything in.

You then chuck in a bit of salt, pepper, butter (or oil) and a splash of milk (or an alternative).

Give it a mash and you’re done.

It has to be one of the easiest whole food dishes to cook – and yet people are still opting for the ready meal version.

So many people, in fact, that they’re having to create new factories for production!

What’s more, unless I have missed a memo here, whole potatoes are CHEAPER to buy than ready-mashed ones.

Which begs the question – how does the cost-of-living crisis lead people spending more on something they can easily do (more cheaply) themselves at home?
Why This Story Worries Me

Now, look, I know this makes me sound like a judgmental old curmudgeon here – but as a nutritional writer and advocate of whole foods cooked traditionally, this story makes me despair.

Because it’s fine to eat the occasional ready meal as a treat, or in circumstances where you haven’t got access to proper cooking facilities, or you’re on the move.

But our increasing reliance on ready meals and Ultra Proceed Foods (UPFs) as everyday staples in our diet is a serious health issue that is costing the NHS (and us) money.

A recent large study of 12,000 people has found that those who consumed home-cooked meals more than five times a week are 28% less likely to be overweight and 24% less likely to have excess body fat than those who home cook less than three times a week.

So as a society we need to get back to cooking mostly whole ingredients, and more often.

But if folk are not even willing to spend 20 minutes boiling a potato, what hope is there?

For me, this is another example of processed food sneaking into our diets where it doesn’t need to be.

In defence of its mashed range, a Tesco spokesman said, “People should be excited as we have developed new recipes”.

But it’s not a new recipe is it?


Worse, these kinds of ready meals are yet more terrible news for the environment.

Instead of a bag of whole potatoes, ready-mashed potato is packaged in plastic, which pollutes the environment and requires yet more petrochemical production.

It just seems so unnecessary!

For me, it feels like our civilisation is getting crazier and crazier.

Instead of addressing core problems like our lack of time, loss of cooking skills and aggressive processed food marketing….

We are creating yet more processed foods.

And when we become dangerously overweight, well, there are always INJECTIONS, right?

As I mentioned the other week, anti-obesity drugs are on the rise – not only for people with extreme and threatening health issues but for celebs and anyone else who wants to stay slim.

I got a lot of emails from readers in response to this – here are some of them,

“Amazing how the great blurb by the so- called health writer in the newspaper I read extols the so called positive benefits but nothing is said about the side effects.”

– Richard

“You’ve hit the nail on the head with this one! Drugs of this type are not the answer to the obesity crisis- you’ve listed all the real reasons we’re in this state very comprehensively. Some people will doubtless say that this stance runs counter to health improvement for the majority, but these drugs are at best a sticking plaster and at worst a licence to disregard the basis of our collective corpulence.”

– Jerry

“The red lights flashing and alarm bells ringing happened when it was stated on the News that this latest Big Pharma drug was a buzz-word with celebrities and could be viewed as a successor to STATINS in its world-wide popularity. It was stated it only lasts as long as it is taken and the NHS can only afford to issue it for 2 years per patient. After that, the individual will have to purchase it themselves – at a premium price no doubt.”

– Pamela

Thanks to everyone who wrote in – and to all who continue to email us with your thoughts.

If you have any feedback, news or insights to share with other readers, do let us know!

For instance, what’s YOUR view on the mashed potato boom?