Monthly Archives: April 2014

What is a Flexitarian?

Vegetarian. Vegan. Flexitarian?

One of the newest dining trends is to eat less meat—but not eliminate it entirely. Althoughwhat is a flexitarian research has shown the health benefits of eating less meat, vegetarianism is too restrictive for most people’s taste.  However, more consumers are opting for vegetarian choices, at least some of the time.  According to the Institute of Food Technologists, one of the top 10 food trends for 2014 are “alternatives,” with eggs as the most popular alternative, followed by beans, lentils, and legumes. Their research found that 80% of households occasionally chose meatless meals for dinner.

This type of eating is also known as a flexitarian diet.  Flexitarian is a combination of two words, flexible and vegetarian, and was first used about a decade ago.  It does not refer to a strict plan (hence its “flexible” nature), and thus could refer to eating one meatless meal or only eating meat once per week.

The Meatless Monday campaign, formed in association with Johns Hopkins University, also encourages people not to eat meat on Mondays to improve both their personal health and the health of the planet.  According to the Meatless Monday program, avoiding meat reduces a person’s risk of conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.  Eating less meat can also reduce a person’s carbon footprint and save resources like fresh water and fossil fuel.

To follow this type of diet, experts recommend going meatless one or two days a week. Instead of meat, flexitarians will be looking for options with other protein-rich foods, such as beans and legumes.  Tofu is a good option for stir-fry dishes, and beans can provide the base for burritos and tacos.  Whole grains, such as quinoa, farro, and millet, can also be a source of protein, and these grains are popping up in entrees and breakfast products, too.




A conversation with Scott Meskin of Black Tie Services

Staying ahead of  the competition—and the snow!

Q. Tell us a little about Black Tie tie services

A. We are known for our high quality food, which is made fresh every day in our commissary. We’ve been in this business for 25 years and part of USConnect for over a year.

Q. What region do you serve, and what are the local favorites?

A. We work in Maryland, D.C., Northern Virginia, and Western Virginia.  The local favorite sandwich is a Hot Corned Beef and Swiss, and the Half & Half—iced tea and lemonade—is also popular.

Q. What makes your company stand out from its local competitors?

A. Our fresh food program puts us out front. No one in our market can offer anything even close to what we offer in fresh food. Our customers tell us that they are impressed with how delicious our salads and fresh sliced meats taste. All of our food is made fresh daily and to order for each machine or micro market. Our Chicken Salad wrap is the most-requested item we produce, along with our first-cut corned beef brisket on rye with Swiss.

scott-meskinQ. What trends do you see emerging in 2014?

A. Cashless vending is where I see the biggest opportunity for growth. We are in the process of upgrading every machine in the field with cashless technology. Our cashless transactions are increasing monthly, and in a few years, I expect that cashless sales will be more than 50% of our revenue.  We have always strived to be a leader in new trends and technologies, and we will soon be one of the first all cashless vending companies in the Northeast.

Micro markets are also a growth segment for 2014. Customers love the concept, and sales are being led by our fresh food program. About 35% of our micro market sales are fresh-made food items produced in our kitchen.

Q. Your motto is, “We specialize in service to customers deserving the best.” How do you live up to that motto?

A. This past February, the weather reports were calling for a foot of snow on Monday, and a good customer called my cell on Sunday afternoon.  They knew their employees who would be snowed-in Monday morning, and they needed to feed them. Was it possible to have 475 boxed lunches delivered on Monday morning?

I had our commissary build the order, even though I didn’t know if we could get our trucks on the road the next day.  On Sunday night at 8:30 pm, one of my dedicated Operations Managers made the delivery. The customer was thrilled and impressed with our level of service. We always try to go above and beyond what is expected of us.



Scott Meskin is the President of Black Tie Services, LLP. 



Proposed Changes to Nutrition Facts Label

The FDA is proposing changes to the Nutrition Facts label found on food packages.  The changes intend to reflect new evidence regarding nutrition, obesity, and chronic disease since the nutrition label was introduced 20 years ago.  The changes will also address changes to the serving size requirements and update the design of the label to make it easier to use.

Proposed_Label_-_Whats_the_Difference_pdf Serving_sizes_graphic2

The nutrition changes include:

  • Requiring information about “added sugars.” Many experts recommend consuming fewer calories from added sugar because they can decrease the intake of nutrient-rich foods while increasing calorie intake.
  • Updating daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber, and Vitamin D.  Daily values are used to calculate the Percent Daily Value listed on the label, which help consumers understand the nutrition information in the context of a total daily diet.
  • Requiring manufacturers to declare the amount of potassium and Vitamin D on the label because they are new “nutrients of public health significance.” Calcium and iron would continue to be required, and Vitamins A and C could be included on a voluntary basis.
  • While continuing to require “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” on the label, “Calories from Fat” would be removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount.

Changes to the service size requirements would reflect how people eat and drink today, such as labeling a 20-ounce soda consumed in a single sitting as one serving.

  • The label information on serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what they “should” be eating.
  • Require that packaged foods, including drinks, that are typically eaten in one sitting be labeled as a single serving and that calorie and nutrient information be declared for the entire package.
  • For certain packages that are larger and could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings, manufacturers would have to provide “dual column” labels to indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calories and nutrient information.

The label design will also be updated.  These changes aim to:

  • Make calories and serving sizes more prominent to emphasize parts of the label that are important in addressing current public health concerns such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
  • Shift the Percent Daily Value to the left of the label, so it would come first. This is important because the Percent Daily Value tells you how much of certain nutrients you are getting from a particular food in the context of a total daily diet.
  • Change the footnote to more clearly explain the meaning of the Percent Daily Value.

The FDA is still accepting public comment on these proposed changes.  For more information, or to comment, visit the FDA website.


A Chat with CRH Catering Company: Focusing on Fresh Food and Customer Service

Q. Tell us a little about CRH Catering Company.

A. CRH was formed in 1968 in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, and has since become one of the largest vending companies in the area.  We service the Mid-Atlantic Region including Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Western Maryland, and Virginia.  We have always been a family-owned and operated business, and we are now entering our third generation.  We crh cateringare an original member of the USConnect family.

Q. What are some of the favorite products in your region?

A. In Central Pennsylvania, we sell a wide variety of Turkey Hill Tea, from regular lemon-flavored tea to pomegranate tea.  In our commissary, the most popular regional item is our Ham BBQ sandwich.

Q. What would your customers say you are best known for?

A. We are best known for the quality of the fresh food that is produced in our commissary.  Most of the food on our menu is made fresh daily.  We are also one of the few vending companies that do not operate on a “cycle menu.”  Our commissary menu has close to 100 items, all of which are offered 365 days a year.

Q. What trends do you see emerging for 2014?

A. I think that the biggest trends for 2014 will be the continued growth of cashless vending as well as micro markets.  In the next five years, 90% of our machines will be equipped with credit card readers.  We are also seeing opportunities in micro markets right now, as more customers see the benefit of having a market in their workplace.

Q. What makes your business stand out from others in your area?

A. Our open lines of communication with our customers as well as our investment in the latest technology help us stand out.  The promotions and rewards program offered through the USConnectMe card is unlike anything being offered by any of our competition in the area.

Q. Can you share an example of how this has helped grow your business?

A. Last year, I was invited to a meeting with the manager and superintendent of a new correctional facility that was opening in our area.  I assumed it was a pre-bid meeting, but when I arrived, they wanted to find out how quickly I could get 25 new machines for their facility.  They decided to give CRH the contract instead of putting it out to bid because they were so pleased with CRH’s products and service at another local correctional facility.

Keith Cordaro is the Regional Manager of CRH Catering Company.


Celebrate National Walking Day on April 2, 2014

The American Heart Association has declared April 2 to be National Walking Day, with the goal of encouraging everyone to take 30 minutes and get up and walk.  The event intends national walking dayto both raise awareness of the importance of physical activity and to encourage participants to start walking as a healthy habit.

Research has shown that walking 30 minutes per day can help:

  • Reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke,
  • Improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels,
  • Maintain body weight and lower the risk of obesity,
  • Enhance mental well-being, and
  • Reduce the risk of osteoporosis, breast and colon cancer, and Type 2 diabetes.

Walking is also a great fitness activity because it has a low dropout rate.  Because it’s easy to get started, it’s easier to stick with it and incorporate walking as a healthy habit.

To get your community or company up and moving, the American Heart Association provides tools to help you plan a rally or event at your workplace.  On April 2, consider encouraging employees to walk for 30 minutes.  Another idea is to invite employees to wear sneakers to work on National Walking Day.  Alternatively, try holding at least one walking meeting, which can help you tackle a work problem and work on improving your health at the very same time.