Intelligence time

By Matthew White, chair of The University Caterers Organisation (TUCO) and director of catering, hotel and conferencing at the University of Reading

As an organisation, TUCO strives to deliver real value for its members. One of the ways we do this is by offering industry data, which leads me on to the launch of our fourth and final Intelligence food and drink report for this year.

Released every quarter, the report provides a key focus on inflation rates, supply chain and alcohol – or, should I say, non-alcoholic – drinking trends.

Launched last year on behalf of our members, the report arms buyers with the latest intelligence on trends impacting caterers and anyone supplying them. It raises the concerns we all share over Brexit, which continues to dominate conversations.

Inflation adds to this concern, with the UK rate hitting its lowest level in three years. The UK inflation rate in October was 1.5%, down from 1.7% the previous month.

Elsewhere, weather conditions continue to put stress on suppliers. According to the latest Birtwistles report, this year’s hot summer has caused a reduction in turkey supply. Breeding flocks have died in Central France due to heat stress, and high temperatures have reduced food-conversion ratios.

The world’s coffee market is also taking a hit with farmers earning far less than they need to break even, therefore forcing them away from their crops.

The average citizen, reports Wax Digital, drinks 676 cups of coffee and spends a total of £303 on coffee each year. With this figure set to rise by a further 2% annually, and more farmers turning to alternative jobs that pay better, this could lead to a serious lack of supply.

On a more positive note, 2020 is set to be a good year for the humble spud.

The latest Fresh Direct Market review says growing conditions are much better.

It found that a cold spring saw slow growth, but a good combination of sunshine and rain have provided ideal growing conditions.

Alcohol is also a key focus in the report as Bidfood Unity Wines finds a third of 18–24-year olds aren’t drinking at all and 50% of adults are now moderating their intake. This has led to a huge drive towards new product development, with suppliers increasing the amount of low- and no-ABV products in their portfolios.

As always, we will continue to keep our members up to speed with the latest market data and trends shaping our sector via our reports and website at:

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