On 29th – 31st July, TUCO held their annual conference at the University of York. This year’s theme ‘Driving Commerical Success’ bought together an eventful few days of inspiration for caterers and foodservice professionals.

Matt White, Chairman of TUCO comments: “This year’s conference theme is extremely important. Universities rely on their in-house catering services to provide a surplus for continual investment, yet the catering outlets and bars on campus must also offer great value, choice and innovation.”

The conference was opened by writer and TV presenter Stefan Gates who hosted the three-day event. Four keynotes were delivered which ran alongside various breakout sessions. Lord Stewart Wood, International Relations Committee House of Lords delivered the first keynote and focused on what he saw as the next phase of Brexit including transition, treaties and the impact on Higher Education in the UK. He stated: “Brexit has exploded all the practices, conventions and basic assumptions of UK politics” before going on to dissect parts of Boris Johnson’s first policy announcement as Prime Minister. He explained the proposed Australian-style points-based system for future migrants to the UK and the policy to remove students from the net migration gap. Lord Wood said the Higher Education, and hospitality sector in general, must get ready to lobby for chefs and hospitality worker’s skills to be recognised on the points-based system or risk losing out.

The second keynote of the day was delivered by industry favourite Justin King CBE - former CEO of J Sainsbury for a decade and at the time, he was one of the youngest CEOs in FTSE 100 history. Currently he is vice-chair of private equity firm Terra Firma and he delivered an exhilarating session on ‘putting customers at the heart of everything you do’. King cited five core components he believed are critical to success; customers, colleagues, culture, communication and capability. 

The closing day saw a keynote from Brad Burton, an entrepreneur and motivational speaker, who delivered a remarkable session on how success or failure is defined by your ability to make decisions.

This was followed by the final keynote of the conference KD Adamson, a futurist who spoke on ‘An Appetite for the Future’. She offered up a dynamic and radical visionary perspective on the impact of global megatrends, breakthrough technologies and new generational mindsets, taking delegates through various ideas of how these will radically transform our lives in the years ahead. She advised in the future, but starting now, emphasis would be entirely on ‘hyper personal’ approaches for both consumerism and healthcare, citing ‘The Segment of ONE’ as being a defining piece of thinking and seismic shift to individual expectation of personalised experiences in every walk of life. She credits digital, and what she termed the ‘intelligent digital mesh’ for enabling companies to create those experiences on a massive scale at negligible cost.

Looking ahead to the future of the food and drink industry, KD Adamson estimated food fraud costs the UK industry £12Bn a year but in the future technology could help control the supply chain by adding in more checks and balances. She went on to highlight the ‘weaponisation’ of food and drink advertising, going as far as stating; ‘we no longer have any choice over what we eat, it is advertising which tells us what to eat and drink’

In addition to the keynotes, day one breakout sessions were delivered by Chris Miller CEO White Rabbit Fund, who spoke about ‘succeeding in a challenging market’, David Russell of Russell Partnership with ‘Sustainability at the heart of commercial success’, Zoe Adjonyoh of Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen on ‘Bringing food to the masses’ and Wayne Chadwick of York Roast on ‘Developing and launching the YORKPUD™ wrap’.

Day two breakout sessions were delivered by Jae Mather, Co-Founder & Director of Carbon Free Group on ‘Cost savings with sustainability’, James Wong, writer and  broadcaster with ‘It’s not all about superfoods – it’s about eating better’, Judith Murdoch with an update on the RSPO certification and lastly ‘Members’ Talks’ with Alison Shedlock and Michaela Booth, showcasing their work at their respective institutions of The University of Manchester and The University of Huddersfield.

The conference was followed by the third annual TUCO Awards for which six awards were won, with the prestigious TUCO outstanding achievement award going to Bill Brogan of St John’s College, The University of Cambridge.

TUCO had a strong year, delivering savings to its members and launching several new initiatives, including the successful brokering of a twenty-year partnership with Procure Wizard, the dynamic online portal behind TUCO’s revolutionary Online eProcurement system.

The TUCO conference also saw the launch of a critical piece of research, TUCO’s Global Food & Beverage Trends Report 2019. An invaluable tool, the report demonstrates both the continuation and evolution of trends in food and beverages since 2018 and focuses on 12 overarching themes including ‘Health for all’, ‘Conscientious consuming’, ‘Crafted and curated’ and ‘Plant-based revolution’ to name a few.

The organisation welcomed 36 new members in the past year and their award-winning TUCO Academy held 38-day courses with an 36% increase in attendance from the previous year, 14 study tours, which were attended by 137 delegates and 47 member institutions, and have planned a further 17 study tours for 2019/2020.

With food waste a massive global concern TUCO, in partnership with conference sponsor Brakes, Surplus4G and industry stalwart Roger Kellow, took all of the surplus food from the event to a homeless hostel in York called ‘Changing Lives’. The organisation has 39 rooms and homes some of York’s most vulnerable people often with complex alcohol and drug addiction problems.

Prior to the conference, an astonishing £22,000 was raised for the Chair’s charity Marys’ Meals via a 22-mile charity walk around Ullswater Valley in the Lake District. This takes the total raised so far to more than £100,000. A further £4810.00 was raised on the night in memory of TUCO magazine editor, Morag Wilson, who recently passed away after a short illness.

View a selection of Conference photos.

Watch the highlights video below.