Event preview: LACA Main Event

The industry’s biggest education event returns to Birmingham in July – here’s what attendees have to look forward to...

LACA’s Main Event will return to Hilton Birmingham Metropole from 6th to 8th July, providing, information, inspiration and entertainment for the education sector. As well as the packed delegate programme (see below), there will be a number of leading companies exhibiting.
Among the highlights will be Central Foods, which will be exhibiting a range of products that are suitable for school caterers. These will include its new KaterVeg! meatballs and bangers, as well as its KaterVeg! vegetable nuggets and the 4” meat-free sausage roll, which are all suitable for vegans as well as vegetarians.

Gordon Lauder, managing director of Central Foods, says: “The National Food Strategy reported that daily meat consumption in the UK has fallen by 17% in the last decade. But it recommends that meat consumption falls by 30% in the next 10 years to reduce the environmental impact of our diets, so the demand for plant-based products looks to be going only one way – and that’s up.

“A survey commissioned by BBC Good Food last year found that more than 21% of children are already vegan or would like to be. Meanwhile, 8% of children aged five to 16 are already following a vegan diet, while 15% said they would like to be vegan. The poll suggested that youngsters were keen to explore alternative diets and methods of food production that could be more sustainable for the planet.

“Central Foods has been increasing its range of vegan and vegetarian options in recent years to cater for this demand. As great tasting vegan food can be enjoyed by the majority of people, it makes sense for school caterers to add more vegan options to their menus.”
On the technology front, Civica (stand M40) will be demonstrating its end-to-end solutions to support school caterers in meeting their challenges. The company, which acquired Fretwell Downing Hospitality and its market-leading cloud catering software, Saffron, in 2020, offers paperless kitchen management, cashless technology (including contact-free fingerprint ID) and parent payments. Together, they provide local authorities and schools with a complete catering solution.

With ongoing pressures on costs and sustainability, Civica’s solutions support food waste reduction, including CO2 impacts. This runs alongside promoting healthy eating, digital meal ordering and the management of safe, compliant catering operations.

Saffron’s Purchase to Pay module automates and simplifies the procurement process, making it easier for both caterers and their suppliers – and saving up to 70% of the associated costs of a paper-based system in doing so. Utilised by over 250 national and local suppliers, the platform gives school caterers the tools to manage stock levels and recipe costings more easily, automatically raise and place purchase orders and maximise their purchasing power. It offers integration for larger suppliers and buying groups with their own systems using Electronic Data Interchange, while enabling the same efficiency and cost saving benefits for local suppliers and artisanal producers using an online portal.

This means school caterers can exchange electronic orders seamlessly and process payments, whether working with a buying consortium or the local butcher, with no fee for smaller suppliers to trade electronically. This helps schools to drive initiatives such as Buy British, Buy Local from the PSC100 Group (of which Civica is a member) and the Soil Association’s Food for Life programme.

MKN (stand P2), meanwhile, will be showcasing highlights from its portfolio. These span everything from classical cooking equipment to innovative, multifunctional appliances.

Visitors will be able to see the FlexiCombi and SpaceCombi ranges of combi steamers for busy school kitchens, offering a complete range of products from six-grid to 20-grid, with slimline options up to 12-grid where space is at a premium. Both ranges combine ease of use, increased productivity and uniform results, with additional features such as a closed, triple-glazed chamber door to maximise energy performance. The MKN team will also be on hand to demonstrate the company’s technical expertise, product innovation and after sales support.

MKN is also supporting the LACA School Chef of the Year competition, offering a study tour to its Germany HQ and manufacturing facilities for the winner. The national final will be held live at the LACA Main Event, following a series of regional heats.

Lauder sums up the suppliers’ enthusiasm for attending, saying: “As a proud LACA member and leading supplier to the school catering sector, we are pleased to be returning to the Main Event. This is an excellent opportunity for us to showcase our products to education caterers, helping them to meet nutritional guidelines and provide appealing menu items for youngsters.”

More information - visit https://lacamainevent.co.uk/

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