University caterers will be heading to Exeter later this month for a jam-packed TUCO Conference. Hundreds of higher education sector catering professionals will gather together at the University of Exeter for the three-day event from July 25. This year’s theme is ‘Your Mind on a Plate’ and speakers include psychiatrist and avid athlete Professor Steve Peters, who will deliver his views on mind management, and Henry Dimbleby, chef and co-founder of fast food chain Leon. Here, chair of TUCO, Julie Barker, previews the main conference topics:

Be healthy

“Last year, TUCO released the results from the largest ever global eating study. This study showed that the UK is ahead on healthy eating, with 59% of UK students eating what they consider to be a healthy diet, in comparison to only 35% of US students who believe their university campus does a good job of offering healthy foods. This year, the TUCO Conference will be opening the floor to Professor Patricia Riddell, from the University of Reading’s (UoR) School of Psychology and CLS. She will be introducing the project that she and colleague Dr Emily Hancock are carrying out, which is promoting healthy eating behaviours at UoR, giving the 2016 TUCO Conference it’s theme, ‘Your mind on a plate – The Psychology of Choice’.”

Set yourself ‘free’

“In 2014, EU legislation on allergens was added to the long list of challenges faced by university caterers and, from the 2015 TUCO eating habits research, two key food trends highlighted were gluten-free and free-from eating habits. With 59% of allergen sufferers stating nothing has changed when it comes to eating out; 11% reporting that they found the situation had actually gotten worse; and only 30% believing that dining out is now better. At the TUCO Conference we will be advising caterers on buying informatively, teaching staff about storage and sharing information with customers effectively. As part of this, at this year’s conference, Michelle Berriedale- Johnson, the director of FreeFrom Food Awards, will take to the floor to discuss allergen controls and awareness.”

Go international

“Following the success of TUCO’s 2015 study tour to China and results from the largest ever global eating trends study, at TUCO we have noticed and celebrated the growing demand for Internationalism across the UK, especially when it comes to university catering. Only 5% of university students surveyed actually wanted to eat British food, whilst 84% wanted to eat a ‘mix of foods from home and elsewhere’. TUCO members, such as Royal Holloway, University of London, have reported great success with international ‘street’ food stalls and events, incorporating mouthwatering treats from around the world featuring American Tex Mex, Asian, Turkish and Spanish food among others.”