Food inflation is at its highest level in years, The University Caterers Organisation (TUCO) has found in its first report in a new series on food and drink trends.

The UK membership body for in-house caterers in higher education notes that the past year has been ‘particularly challenging’ for food and drink prices, with the overall consumer price index increasing by 1.2% in December 2017.

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TUCO identified a number of factors behind the trend. International tea market prices have risen by 10% due to reliance on the import market; the UK Government’s impending sugar tax will raise soft drink prices by up to 8p for a can; and the wholesale price of farmed salmon could rise by 50%.

TUCO CEO, Mike Haslin said: “The Bank of England predicts inflation will fall steadily towards its target of 2% during 2018, but uncertainty in the economy fuelled by Brexit continues to impact on the value of sterling.

“With more than 40% of the UK’s food currently imported, currency fluctuations against the Euro and US dollar are making imports more expensive. The prospect of Brexit is also expected to contribute to staff shortages in a number of sectors as EU workers start to leave the UK.”

Additional key findings include gin industry prices rising to £20 per litre as UK sales now exceed £1 billion a year, suggesting a trend towards premium products. British meat is also attracting premium prices, especially chicken, whereas beef and pork prices are predicted to stabilise. However, butter prices are expected to fall after doubling last summer.

The report recommends using a number of fresh fruits and vegetables including UK Cox, Russet and Bramley apples, Italian blood and Seville oranges, Nottingham Piccolo parsnips and Chantenay carrots, Lancashire sprouts, savoy cabbage, leeks, beetroot, kale, Worcestershire purple sprouting broccoli and French pink fir potatoes. It suggests avoiding yellow courgettes, runner beans, garden peas, broad beans, coloured cauliflower, apricots, cherries and outdoor grown rhubarb.