Title:
SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR PACKAGING VEGETABLES
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A container system and method for packaging vegetables. Exemplary embodiments include a container and method for holding different stages of growth of the same vegetable. Other exemplary embodiments include a container and related method for holding other varieties of vegetables.



Inventors:
Jones, Lee (Huron, OH, US)
Application Number:
11/697526
Publication Date:
07/03/2008
Filing Date:
04/06/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
426/119, 426/392
International Classes:
B65B25/04
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
THAKUR, VIREN A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
STANDLEY LAW GROUP LLP (495 METRO PLACE SOUTH, SUITE 210, DUBLIN, OH, 43017, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A container system for vegetables, said container system comprising: a container having at least two compartments; and at least two different varieties of vegetables; wherein each of the compartments is filled with a single variety of vegetable.

2. The container system of claim 1, wherein each compartment of the container is filled with a different type of vegetable.

3. The container system of claim 1, wherein: said container is comprised of a top portion and a bottom portion, and said container has a means for engaging the top portion and bottom portion together.

4. The container system of claim 1, wherein said container is formed from molded plastic.

5. The container system of claim 1, wherein said container is comprised of three or more of said compartments.

6. The container system of claim 2, wherein said container is comprised of three or more of said compartments.

7. The container system of claim 1, wherein said at least two varieties of vegetables are the same type of vegetable in different stages of growth.

8. The container system of claim 3, wherein said at least two varieties of vegetables are the same type of vegetable in different stages of growth.

9. The container system of claim 1, wherein said compartments contain absorption pads.

10. A method for packaging vegetables, comprising the steps of: classifying the stages of vegetable growth; selecting vegetables of the same type at a number of stages of growth; providing a container with multiple compartments, and placing said vegetables into said compartments based on their respective stages of growth.

11. The method of claim 10 further comprising the step of placing an absorbing pad into each compartment.

12. The method of claim 10 wherein said container is shaped such that multiple containers can be stacked upon one another.

13. The method of claim 10 wherein three different stages of growth of said vegetables are selected.

14. The method of claim 10 wherein the vegetables are leafy greens.

15. The method of claim 10 wherein the stages of growth differ in color.

16. A method for packaging vegetables, comprising the steps of: providing a container with multiple compartments; providing different varieties of vegetables, and placing said vegetables into said compartments based on their respective varieties.

17. The method of claim 16 wherein the vegetable varieties differ in color.

18. The method of claim 16 wherein the vegetable varieties differ in size.

19. The method of claim 16 wherein the vegetable varieties differ by type.

20. The method of claim 16 wherein the vegetables are leafy greens.

Description:

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/882,780, filed Dec. 29, 2006, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Exemplary embodiments of the present invention relate generally to a container system and method of packaging vegetables. More particularly, exemplary embodiments of the present invention relate to a container system and method of packaging a variety of vegetables in one container.

An important part of preparing a great meal is to make the food look as good as it tastes. For this reason, culinary artistry is an important aspect of the restaurant business, as well as other food preparation businesses. As chefs continuously look for ways to manipulate the colors, textures, tastes, and other characteristics of food, many find great benefit in having a wide variety of foodstuffs on hand to work with. This includes having a variety of vegetables on hand to allow for the greatest freedom in creating attractive and delicious dishes.

Currently, it can be difficult for chefs to obtain different sizes or other varieties of the same kind of vegetable or different vegetables. If a chef wants variety, they must seek out which different types of vegetables they want and then order each one separately. This can pose many problems. First, limited availability may force a chef to separately order different varieties of vegetables from different sources, which can increase time in ordering, as well as administrative and transportation costs. Also, going to different vendors can also make it difficult to obtain the same or desired amount of each vegetable, resulting in either a need for more of one variety or waste of another. Furthermore, ordering vegetables separately means that each kind of vegetable must be removed from its packaging and separately prepared to the point where it can be used by the chef. This also takes time and effort. For these reasons, it is often difficult or impractical for a chef to obtain a wide array of vegetables, especially different variations of the same vegetable. The result is that chefs may be dissuaded from utilizing a variety of vegetables in their dishes, sacrificing both taste and appeal of their dishes.

Exemplary embodiments of the present invention include a multi-compartment container system and related method for containing different varieties of vegetables, with each variety in a separate compartment. For instance, one exemplary embodiment is a multi-compartment container system containing a different type of vegetables in each compartment. Another exemplary embodiment is a multi-compartment container system containing one type of vegetable during different stages of growth, with each stage of growth in a separate compartment. Yet another exemplary embodiment may contain or provide different colors of the same or different vegetables, with each color variety in a separate compartment. In light of the disclosure herein, other examples of container systems for packaging a variety of vegetables are also possible.

Exemplary embodiments of the present invention also include related methods for packaging or containing varieties of vegetables. For instance, exemplary embodiments include methods for packaging varieties of the same or different vegetables in a multi-compartment container. Examples include methods for packaging different colors or stages of growth of the same vegetable in one container. Examples also include methods for packaging different types of vegetables in one container. In light of the disclosure herein, other exemplary methods for packaging a variety of vegetables are also possible.

In addition to the novel features and advantages mentioned above, other benefits will be readily apparent from the following descriptions of the drawings and exemplary embodiments.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a top plan view of an exemplary embodiment of a container system of the present invention, containing mache greens in three different stages of growth.

FIG. 2 is a side elevation view of an exemplary embodiment of a container system of the present invention, containing three different varieties of aramanth greens.

FIG. 3 is a top plan view of an exemplary embodiment of a container system of the present invention, containing watercress greens in three different stages of growth.

FIG. 4 is a top plan view of an exemplary embodiment of a container system of the present invention, containing three different varieties of amaranth.

FIG. 5 is a top plan view of an exemplary embodiment of a container system of the present invention, containing three different types of vegetables.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of exemplary embodiments of container systems of the present invention as shown in FIGS. 1, 3, 4, and 5.

FIG. 7 is a collection of illustrations showing an exemplary embodiment of a classification system for different stages of vegetable growth.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENT(S)

One exemplary embodiment of the present invention is a container system with multiple compartments for containing different varieties of vegetables. The vegetables may differ from one another by type, stage of growth, color, or other suitable variations. The vegetables may be any part of a plant, including greens, stalks, flowers, and seeds. Another exemplary embodiment of the present invention is a method of packaging a variety of vegetables together. Based on the present specification, it should be recognized that an exemplary container system and method of the present invention may also be used to package other types of foods for similar purposes.

An exemplary embodiment of a container system of the present invention is shown in FIG. 1. In this example, a container 10 has multiple compartments 12, each containing vegetables 14. Referring now to FIG. 2, another exemplary embodiment of a container system is shown that uses a similar container 10. As can be seen in FIG. 2, an exemplary embodiment of container 10 may be comprised of a top portion 16 and a bottom portion 18. In this exemplary embodiment, the top portion 16 and bottom portion 18 form three concavities, which are juxtaposed along an axis A-A. As shown in this embodiment the concavities may be of substantially similar size and shape on both the top portion 16 and bottom portion 18. Other variations are possible. When the top portion 16 and bottom portion 18 of a container 10 engage with each other, the multiple compartments 12 of container 10 are formed. As shown in the exemplary embodiments of FIGS. 1 and 2, when the top portion 16 and bottom portion 18 engage, each compartment 12 becomes partitioned off from the others, thereby preventing any mixing of the contents of the compartments 12. Furthermore, in an exemplary embodiment, when the top portion 16 and bottom portion 18 engage, each compartment 12 may substantially partition or isolate the vegetables 14 therein from the surrounding environment, preventing the vegetables 14 from falling out of container 10.

In an exemplary embodiment, a container 10 may include one or more means for engaging the top portion 16 and bottom portion 18 together. The engagement means may be comprised of a top portion outer perimeter 20 having a lip 22 that is slightly larger than the bottom portion outer perimeter 24. In this embodiment the lip 22 of the top portion outer perimeter 20 fits over the bottom portion outer perimeter 24 such that the outer perimeters snap together when pressed against each other. However, there are many different means of engagement that may be present in a container 10. As shown in FIG. 1, the engagement means may be one or more rubber bands 26 that encircle the portions of container 10. The engagement means may also be an adhesive that is placed between or around the portions of container 10 to hold them together. In other embodiments an engagement means may be anything which is able to hold the top portion 16 and bottom portion 18 of container 10 together and yet can still allow for a user to open container 10 without considerable difficulty. In some embodiments, an engagement means may act to create an air-tight seal between the top portion 16 and bottom portion 18. However, in other embodiments it may be preferable to not have an air-tight seal.

In the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 1, the container 10 is made of molded plastic, but in other embodiments a container 10 may be made from a variety of other materials, including heavy paperboard material such as corrugated cardboard. It is preferable that the material used be durable enough to withstand substantial amounts of loads as well as abuses that are normally encountered during the transport of food products. In an exemplary embodiment a container 10 may be made of a water-resistant or water-proof substance to prevent water damage to the vegetables 14 during transport.

As can be seen in FIG. 2, some exemplary embodiments of a container 10 may include at least one absorption pad 28 located in each compartment 12. These absorption pads 28 may absorb moisture present in the compartment 12 in order to keep the vegetables 14 fresher during transport. The absorption pads 28 may be made from any material that is able to draw moisture away from the vegetables 14. In other embodiments, the compartments 12 may not contain absorption pads 28.

In an exemplary embodiment, a container 10 may have a shape that allows multiple containers 10 to be stacked upon one another. In the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 1, the top portion 16 and bottom portion 18 of container 10 have a rectangular shape, and the compartments 12 are of equal size with substantially flat top and bottom surfaces. This shape allows for multiple containers 10 to be stacked on one another with some stability, thereby facilitating the transport of multiple containers 10. In other embodiments the overall shape of container 10 may be different from that shown in FIG. 1, but still allow for multiple containers 10 to be stacked upon one another with stability. However, in other embodiments the containers 10 may have a shape that does not allow multiple containers 10 to be stacked upon one another.

In one exemplary embodiment, a container may have three compartments. For example, one embodiment of a container may be approximately 16 inches in length and 8 inches in width, and the compartments may be about 4 inches long, 7 inches wide, and 1.5 inches deep. However, in other embodiments, the dimensions and number of compartments of a container may vary. For example, in some exemplary embodiments that have 4 or more compartments 12, the length of a container 10 may be greater than 16 inches. In some other exemplary embodiments that have only two compartments 12, the length of a container 10 may be less than 16 inches. Nevertheless, the length of a container 10 is not dependent of the number of compartments 12. Furthermore, in some exemplary embodiments, the depth of the compartments 12 may be more than 1.5 inches in order to hold more vegetables 14. Numerous other variations are possible. It is preferable that regardless of the amount of vegetables 14 that are packaged in a container 10, the compartments 12 be large enough to hold the desired amount of vegetables 14 in a desired condition, so that vegetables 14 are not packaged so tightly that they are damaged. In the exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the compartments 12 may contain air from the surrounding environment. However, in other embodiments, the compartments 12 may contain a gas such as nitrogen or carbon dioxide for preserving the freshness of the vegetables 14. Furthermore, in some embodiments the compartments 12 may contain a non-gaseous substance for preserving the freshness of the vegetables 14.

In an exemplary embodiment, a container 10 may include a label 30 in a suitable location. The label 30 may contain information on the types of vegetables 14 in container 10, instructions on how to prepare the vegetables 14, the date that the vegetables 14 were packed or the date on which they should be used by, or commercial information such as price, product codes, and vendor information. In other embodiments the label may display any other information for the end user of container 10.

In an exemplary embodiment, the compartments 12 of a container 10 may contain different varieties of vegetables 14. As shown in the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 1, the compartments 12 may contain the same type of vegetables 14 at different stages of growth, with each stage in a separate compartment 12. In the example shown in FIG. 1, the three different compartments 12 contain mache greens 100 at three different stages of growth. The exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 3 contains watercress greens 120 in three different stages of growth. In other embodiments, other vegetables 14 may be presented in different stages of growth. The stages may vary anywhere from the earliest vegetable sprouts to full grown vegetable plants and the vegetables themselves. Vegetable flowers and vegetable seeds may also be included in a container 10 as stages of growth. Although FIGS. 1 and 3 show leafy vegetable greens in different stages of growth, some embodiments may contain different sizes of vegetables 14 in the different compartments 12. An example would be a container with different sizes of zucchini (e.g., small, medium, and large) in each compartment. Furthermore, some embodiments may contain vegetable greens 14 in one or more compartments 12 and other parts or stages of growth of the vegetable plant in other compartments 12.

In other embodiments, the compartments 12 may contain other varieties of vegetables 14. The different varieties packaged together in one container 10 can provide an assortment of colors, textures, or tastes to the consumer. For example, in FIGS. 2 and 4 each compartment 12 has a different variety of amaranth greens 140 in it, a vegetable which is often used in salads. One is White Amaranth 141, one is Tricolored Amaranth 142, and one is Burgundy Amaranth 143. On the other hand, in the exemplary embodiment as shown in FIG. 5, a container 10 contains different types of vegetables—Sunflower sprouts 150, Moonflower greens 160, and slightly larger Velvet Queen greens 170. As can be seen, in this embodiment the vegetables 14 not only have different colors but different shapes and textures as well.

FIG. 6 shows the containers 10 in FIGS. 1, 3, 4, and 5 together. As can be seen, the present invention allows a consumer to have a wide array of vegetables 14 available without having to purchase each one separately.

There are different ways in which to categorize the stages of vegetable growth. FIG. 7 is an exemplary embodiment of a categorization system for plant growth. In this embodiment, plant growth has been categorized as eight stages—the cotyledon stage 32, micro stage 34, petite stage 36, ultra stage 38, baby stage 40, young stage 42, flowering stage 44, and seed stage 46. In this embodiment, these stages occur at specific points in a plant's life. The cotyledon stage 32 comes before the first true leaves appear. These leaves are called the cotyledon and are often difficult to identify because they do not resemble the mature leaf. The micro stage 34 is what a plant is referred to when the first true leaves appear, which make the genus identifiable. The petite stage 36 occurs when the plant begins to form leaf clusters. The ultra stage 38 follows as the plant gains height. The baby stage 40 of plant growth occurs when the plant produces an actual head or root, depending on the variety. The young stage 42 is when a plant is nearly fully grown. The flowering stage 44 occurs when a variety begins to bud and blossom. Finally, the seed stage 46 occurs when the plant comes to full maturity and prepares to reproduce. However, FIG. 7 is merely an example of how vegetables growth may be categorized. There are many different ways in which vegetable growth could be categorized. Once a categorization is established, vegetables 14 can be selected based on their categorization.

Any embodiment of the present invention may include any of the optional or preferred features of the other embodiments of the present invention. The exemplary embodiments herein disclosed are not intended to be exhaustive or to unnecessarily limit the scope of the invention. The exemplary embodiments were chosen and described in order to explain the principles of the present invention so that others skilled in the art may practice the invention. Having shown and described exemplary embodiments of the present invention, those skilled in the art will realize that many variations and modifications may be made to affect the described invention. Many of those variations and modifications will provide the same result and fall within the spirit of the claimed invention. It is the intention, therefore, to limit the invention only as indicated by the scope of the claims.