Title:
Portable food and condiment kit
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A food and condiment kit comprising a container having a top, a bottom, and an interior. The interior of the container is adjacent to a chamber for storing a packet of salad dressing, sauce, or similar condiment. The chamber includes a plurality of apertures disposed on a wall between the chamber and the interior of the container. The packet containing the condiment also includes a plurality of apertures disposed on its surface and temporarily covered by a protective foil. When the packet is introduced into the chamber, the cover is removed to expose the apertures. A variety of mechanisms can be engaged by the lid or user to control the alignment of the chamber and packet apertures to dispense the condiment between the packet and the interior of the container.



Inventors:
Bertin, Bruno (Alexandria, VA, US)
Application Number:
11/822153
Publication Date:
01/08/2009
Filing Date:
07/02/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
221/92, 220/23.2
International Classes:
B65D69/00; A47G23/00; B65H1/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
PERREAULT, ANDREW D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Roylance, Abrams, Berdo (& Goodman, L.L. P. 4948 Sentinel Drive Apt 401, Bethesda, MD, 20816-3556, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A food kit comprising: a container having a top, a bottom, and an interior; a chamber having a plurality of chamber apertures disposed on a wall between said chamber and said interior; and a reservoir for storing a condiment and having a plurality of reservoir apertures and a shape corresponding to a shape of said chamber, wherein said reservoir is disposed adjacent to said plurality of chamber apertures.

2. A food kit according to claim 1, wherein: said chamber extends between said top and said bottom of said container and adjacent to said interior such that said chamber is disposed between said interior and said reservoir.

3. A food kit according to claim 1, wherein: said reservoir includes a top adjacent to said top of said container, a bottom adjacent to said bottom of said container, and said plurality of apertures is disposed on an exterior surface extending therebetween.

4. A food kit according to claim 3, wherein: said reservoir further includes a removable cover disposed adjacent said plurality of apertures such that said apertures are arranged between said dressing and said cover.

5. A food kit according to claim 1, wherein: a lid is rotated onto said container comprising a means for engaging said reservoir.

6. A food kit according to claim 5, wherein: said means for engaging said reservoir is a lever having a shape substantially similar to a shape of said chamber.

7. A food kit according to claim 6, wherein: said lever has a first position wherein a top of said lever is flush with a crest of said lid.

8. A food kit according to claim 5, wherein: said lid includes a first compartment and a second compartment wherein said first compartment rotates with respect to said second compartment.

9. A food kit according to claim 8, wherein: said first compartment engages a lever having a first position and a second position wherein said first position lowers said packet.

10. A food kit according to claim 9, wherein: said first position engages said reservoir towards a lower portion of said container such that said plurality of chamber apertures are parallel to a plurality of apertures disposed on an exterior surface of said reservoir; and said second position elevates said reservoir from said lower portion such that said plurality of chamber apertures are adjacent to said plurality of apertures disposed on said reservoir.

11. A food kit according to claim 1, wherein: said chamber further includes a spring-activated floor having a first position and a second position wherein said first position engages said reservoir towards a lower portion of said container such that said plurality of chamber apertures are parallel to a plurality of apertures disposed on an exterior surface of said reservoir and said second position elevates said reservoir from said lower portion such that said plurality of chamber apertures are adjacent to said plurality of apertures disposed on said reservoir.

12. A food kit according to claim 11, wherein: a step is adjacent to said floor having a width equivalent to that of said chamber for receiving a bottom of said reservoir when said lever is engaged.

13. A food kit comprising: a lid secured onto a container, said lid including a first chamber and an adjacent second chamber, said second chamber includes a chamber wall mechanically attached to said first chamber and having a plurality of apertures disposed thereon; and a condiment packet located within said second chamber and having a plurality of apertures.

14. A food kit according to claim 13, wherein: said lid includes a first position and a second position such that in said first position, said plurality of chamber apertures are parallel to said plurality of reservoir apertures; and said second position is defined by said plurality of chamber apertures disposed adjacent to said plurality of reservoir apertures.

15. A method of dispensing a condiment into a container comprising the steps of: introducing a condiment packet having a plurality of openings into a chamber adjacent to an interior of said container; activating a mechanism disposed on a lid of said container and adjacent to said packet; aligning a plurality of openings of said condiment packet with a plurality of openings parallel to said chamber; and dispensing a plurality of contents of said condiment packet into said interior.

16. A food kit according to claim 15, wherein: said mechanism is a lever.

17. A food kit according to claim 15, wherein: said mechanism is a tab.

18. A food kit according to claim 15, wherein: said mechanism is a spring activated floor.

19. A food kit according to claim 17, wherein: said tab is adjacent to a lid containing first and second chambers.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a portable food and condiment kit. More particularly, the invention relates to a disposable container having a compartment for a food condiment that evenly dispenses and distributes the condiment such as salad dressing or pasta sauce throughout the package.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Conventional food dressing kits for on-the-go use include a container filled with food such as salad and a separate packet containing a condiment such as salad dressing. A user opens the salad dressing packets to dispense salad dressing throughout the container. Although convenient, these packets are cumbersome because they typically distribute the salad dressing over the top layers of the salad, often resulting in an uneven distribution of salad dressing throughout the container. Oftentimes, when a user reaches the bottom of the container after consuming most of the salad, there is not enough salad dressing for the bottom layers because the majority of the salad dressing coated the upper layers.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,386,443 to Szczerbinski discloses a combination food and condiment dispenser which provides a compartment for ketchup, or a similar topping, clipped to the top of a French fry container.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,302,268 to Michaeli discloses a salad container having an insert chamber for salad dressing. The salad dressing is injected into the container at the top of the salad. This does not provide even distribution of the salad dressing through the salad because the dressing is concentrated towards the upper portion of the container.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,076,425 to Plone discloses a dispensing stick for dispensing a substance into a container. The stick is combined with a dispensing lid for convenience.

Although the above inventions are useful for convenience and combining condiments with main food items, a need exists for evenly distributing salad dressing throughout a container. There is also a need for an economical and efficient apparatus of doing the same.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, an object of the present invention is to provide a food container for evenly distributing a food condiment, such as salad dressing or pasta sauce, for example, to the food.

Another object of the invention is to provide a food container having a chamber for separating a condiment packet from the food so the user can operate a mechanism for distributing the condiment to the remainder of the container.

A further object of the invention is to provide a chamber for releasing the condiment into the container by activating a lever on the container lid.

Still another object of the invention is to provide a container for dispensing the condiment by engaging a spring activated chamber that controls the alignment of the condiment packet with the container.

Yet another object of the invention is to provide a chamber for releasing the condiment into the container by rotating the container lid.

The foregoing objects are basically attained by providing a food and condiment kit comprising a container having a top, a bottom, and an interior. The interior of the container is adjacent to a chamber for storing a packet of a condiment, such as salad dressing or pasta sauce. The chamber includes a plurality of apertures disposed on a wall between the chamber and the interior of the container. The packet containing the condiment also includes a plurality of apertures disposed on its surface and temporarily covered by a protective foil. When the packet is introduced into the chamber, the cover is removed to expose the apertures. A variety of mechanisms can be engaged by the lid or user to control the alignment of the chamber and packet apertures to dispense the flavored condiment between the packet and the interior of the container.

By forming the food and condiment kit and container in this manner, a user can control the amount of the condiment that is distributed from the chamber into the interior of the food container. Moreover, the user can prevent excess dressing or sauce from entering the interior of the container by activating a mechanism that aligns the packet openings with the chamber openings to control the distribution of dressing or sauce between a chamber and the container.

As used in this application, the terms “top”, “bottom”, and “side” are intended to facilitate the description of the food and condiment kit and container, and are not intended to limit the food and condiment kit and container of the present invention to any particular orientation.

Other objects, advantages, and salient features of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description, which, taken in conjunction with the annexed drawings, discloses preferred embodiments of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Referring to the drawings which form a part of this disclosure:

FIG. 1 is a side elevational view of the food container according to a first embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a front elevational view of the condiment packet before it is introduced into the food container of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a rear elevational view of the food container according to FIGS. 1 and 2 with the condiment packet positioned in a chamber;

FIG. 4 is a front elevational view of the bottom portion of the condiment packet according to the first embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 5 is a side elevational view of the food container as seen in FIGS. 1-4;

FIG. 6 is a side elevational view of the condiment packet without its cover according to FIGS. 1-5;

FIG. 7 is a side elevational view of the assembled food container and condiment packet according to FIGS. 1-6 with a lever engaging the chamber;

FIG. 8 is a side elevational view of the food container according to a second embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 9 is a side elevational view of the food container illustrated in FIG. 8 with the lever engaging the chamber;

FIG. 10 is a rear elevational view of the food container according to a third embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 11 is a rear elevational view of the food container according to FIG. 10 with the lid engaging a spring activated chamber;

FIG. 12 is a bottom elevational view of the lid of the food container according to a fourth embodiment;

FIG. 13 is a front elevational view of the food container with the lid as seen in FIG. 12;

FIG. 14 is a bottom elevational view of the lid of the food container as seen in FIGS. 12 and 13 with a double chamber in the disbursement position; and

FIG. 15 is a front elevational view of the food container as seen in FIGS. 12-14 with the double chamber lid activated.

Throughout the drawings, like reference numerals will be understood to refer to like parts, components, and structures.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Turning to FIGS. 1-3, a food container 10 for evenly dispensing a food condiment comprises an interior 11 defined by a segregated chamber 12 for receiving a reservoir or packet 14 containing the condiment. The condiment packet 14 is introduced into the chamber 12 for controllably releasing the condiment through a plurality of openings 24 in a chamber wall 13.

The food container 10 is a substantially circularly-shaped structure having an arcuate section or chamber 12 for temporarily storing the condiment 18. The container 10 could also have a substantially rectangularly-shaped structure or anything suitable for storing a particular food. The chamber 12 is separated from the largest interior area 11 of the container 10. The chamber 12 is defined by a wall 13 separating the condiment 18 from the interior 11 of the food container 10. The chamber 12 extends between the top 15 and bottom 28 of the container 10 and has a size and shape for maximizing the amount of condiment 18 provided while also minimizing the amount of food ingredient space of the interior 11 that is occupied.

The food container could include salad, pasta, or a similar food item. The condiment in the chamber would preferably be salad dressing or pasta sauce, respectively. For purposes of explaining the invention, the food described will be salad and the condiment will be salad dressing. It should be understood that all of the embodiments are applicable to salad flavored with a salad dressing, pasta flavored with a pasta sauce, and similar food selections.

The wall 13 defining the chamber 12 comprises the same material as the rest of the container 10. The wall 13 includes a plurality of openings or apertures 24 disposed between the chamber 12 and the interior 11 of the container 10 to serve as a passageway for the dressing 18 to be transported from the packet 14 (stored in the chamber 12) into the interior 11 of the container 10. The wall openings 24 can be randomly arranged along the surface of the packet 18 but the arrangement should be one with which the plurality of salad dressing packet openings 26 aligns. The container 10 can be constructed of plastic or any other moisture resistant materials known in the art which can satisfy the purposes of this invention.

In the first embodiment, illustrated in FIGS. 1-7, the salad dressing packet 14 introduced into the chamber 12 includes a top end 38, a bottom end 36, and the openings 26 along its exterior surface closest to the interior 11 of the container 10. The packet 14 comprises a shape corresponding to that of the chamber 12. This maximizes the amount of dressing that can be introduced into the chamber 12.

The packet 14 may contain any flavor or brand of salad dressing 18. The packet 14 also includes a cover 22 adjacent to the packet openings 26 on the opposite side of the openings 26 as the dressing 18 to prevent exposure of the dressing 18 to debris, liquid, and bacteria. The protective cover 22 comprises a flap 20 adjacent to the bottom end 36 of the packet 14 for easily removing the protective cover 22 as the packet 14 is introduced into the chamber 12. When the protective cover 22 is fully wrapped over the packet 14, the dressing particles 18 are shielded from external contaminants and prevented from seeping out of the packet 14. The packet 14 can be constructed of plastic, paper, or any other moisture resistant materials known in the art which can satisfy the purposes of this invention. The cover 22 can be made of a lightweight removable material such as foil, plastic, or paper.

The packet 14 is inserted into the chamber 12 such that the flap 20 is pulled upwardly to remove the cover 22 upon introduction into the chamber 12. The packet 14 is inserted such that its top end 38 is adjacent to the top 15 of the container 10 and its bottom end 36 is adjacent to, yet slightly higher than the bottom 28 of the container 10.

The side of the packet 14 closest to the interior 11 of the container 10 includes the plurality of openings 26 for controlling the passage of dressing 18 to the interior 11 of the chamber 10. When a user introduces the packet 14 into the chamber 12, the flap 20 is drawn upwardly towards the top end 38 of the packet 14 exposing the salad dressing particles 18 to the packet openings 26. When the exterior layer or cover 22 is peeled away from the packet 14, the packet openings 26 can be aligned with the chamber openings 24.

To control the release of dressing 18 from the packet 14 to the interior 11 of the container 10, a mechanism is engaged to assemble the packet 18 into the disbursing position (FIG. 7). The mechanism would push downwardly onto the top 38 of the packet 14 to force the bottom end 36 to a lower position, adjacent with the bottom surface 28 of the container 10. This movement would align the packet openings 26 with the chamber openings 24. When the packet 14 is introduced into the chamber 12, the chamber openings 24 do not align with the packet openings 26. This prevents the dressing 18 from continually spilling into the interior 11 of the container 10. For the user to control the amount of dressing 18 saturating the salad ingredients, the openings 24, 26 are staggered upon entry of the packet 14 and alignment is controlled with a mechanical device. Allowing the user to control the amount of dressing 18 that flows freely into the interior 11, coating the salad ingredients helps to prevent over-saturation of the salad ingredients.

For further explanation, turn to the mechanism illustrated in FIGS. 5-7. The container 10 further comprises a lid 15 rotated thereon and includes a means for engaging the packet 14. In the current embodiment, the lid 15 includes a lever 30 that, when depressed and released, controls the discharge of salad dressing 18 across the chamber wall 13. The lever 30 is substantially arcuately shaped to match the shape of the chamber 12 such that when the lid 16 is rotated onto the container 10, it aligns the lever 30 with the chamber 12. The lever 30 exerts pressure on the packet 14 to force the packet downwardly.

Thus, the lever 30 has a first position wherein its top 31 is flush with the crest 17 of the lid 15. In its second position (FIG. 7), the top 31 is not level with the crest 17 of the lid 15. This movement engages the packet 14 to align the packet apertures 26 with the chamber apertures 24.

Preferably, the chamber 14 further includes a floor 37 that slides into a step or drop-off 34 above the lowermost portion 35 of the container 10. The drop-off 34 has a width equivalent to that of the chamber 12 so it can adequately receive the bottom 36 of the packet 14 when the lever 30 is engaged. When the lever 30 is depressed, the floor 37 moves downwardly into the drop-off 34 until it is adjacent with the lowermost container portion 35 and the bottom of the packet 14 slides into the drop-off 34.

This substantially downward motion aligns the packet openings 26 with the chamber openings 24 to control the disbursement of dressing 18 into the interior 11 of the container 10. When pressure is no longer applied to the lever 30, the downwardly exerted pressure on the packet 14 is released and the packet 14 elevates upwardly towards the lid 16 such that the packet openings 26 are no longer aligned with the chamber openings 24 and the dressing 18 is not dispensed.

In another embodiment, illustrated in FIGS. 8 and 9, the container 10 is equipped with a lid 32 that controls the release of the salad dressing 18. The chamber 12 and salad dressing packet 14 are arranged similarly as that described above. After the lid 32 is twisted onto the container 10, the upper or first compartment 46 of the lid is rotated counterclockwise (FIG. 9) with respect to the lower or second compartment 48 to engage the lever 20. Upon engagement, the lever 20 has a first position for lowering the packet 14 (FIG. 8) such that the packet 14 is pressed downwardly to align the packet openings 26 with the chamber openings 24, as previously described. This movement releases the dressing 18 into the container 10 at the control of the user.

When the user does not want to dispense any additional dressing 18 into the container 10, the upper compartment 46 is rotated clockwise to release the pressure on the lever 30. The second position of the lever 20 is activated by the clockwise rotation of the lid 32 from the depressed position to elevate the packet 14 such that the chamber openings 24 are no longer aligned with the packet openings 26 and thus, the dressing 18 will not be released into the container 10.

The configuration of the lid 32 is such that the upper or first compartment 46 moves independently of the lever 30 such that the upper compartment 46 controls the downward motion of the lever 30 because the upper compartment 46 collapses the lever 30 as the upper compartment 46 rotates counterclockwise with respect to the lower or second compartment 48. The lever 30 is fixedly attached to the lower compartment 48 such that once the lid 40 is rotated onto the container 10, the lever 30 is positioned directly above the chamber 12. The flush surface of the lid 32 covers the lever 30 so the lever 30 cannot elevate from its depressed dressing dispensing position.

In a third embodiment, illustrated in FIGS. 10 and 11, the floor 37 of the chamber 12 could be spring loaded such that when the knob 42 is rotated and the lever 30 aligns with the chamber 12, the force and pressure of the lever 30 crossing over the chamber 12 activates the spring 50 activated floor 37. The spring 50 is positioned between the bottom of the floor 37 and the lowermost portion 35 of the container 10.

In a first position (FIG. 10), the spring 50 compresses to affect the downward movement of the floor 37 and thus, the packet 14. The packet 14 is then pressed downwardly towards a lowermost portion 35 of the container 10 to align the packet openings 26 in parallel orientation with the chamber openings 24, as previously described. The packet openings 26 and the chamber openings 24 would align to release the dressing 18 into the interior 11 of the container 10. The chamber 12 and salad dressing packet 14 are arranged similarly as that described above.

In a second position (FIG. 11), the spring 50 extends to elevate the packet 14 from the lowermost portion 35 of the container 10 such that the plurality of packet openings 26 are not in parallel orientation with the chamber openings 24, but are adjacent to the chamber openings 24 so that the dressing 18 would not be released into the interior 11 of the container 10.

The knob 42 controls the rotation of the lid 40 with respect to the main body of the container 10. The lid 40 includes a knob 42 and a button 44. The knob 42 can be curved to form a substantially C-shaped relationship with the lid 40 such that a user can hook their finger between the knob 42 and lid 40 to control the rotation of the lid 40. When the lid 40 is rotated, the button 44 is parallel to and directly above the chamber 12 such that the dressing packet 14 would be depressed. This relationship is similar to that disclosed in the previous embodiment. Thus, steering the knob 42 counterclockwise would effectively rotate the lid 40 until the button 44 is directly above the chamber 12. The user would depress the lever 44 to align the packet openings 26 with the chamber openings 24, thereby releasing dressing into the container 10.

In a fourth embodiment, illustrated in FIGS. 12-15, the container 58 comprises a lid 60 having a double chamber structure for controlling the release of the salad dressing 18. In this embodiment, the interior 11 of the container 58 does not include a longitudinal chamber 12 as described in the previous three embodiments because the chamber 62 in the lid 60 substitutes the longitudinal chamber 12.

The lid 60 comprises a first chamber or partition 62 and a second chamber or partition 63, relatively smaller than the first chamber 62. The rotation of the first chamber 62 with respect to the second chamber 63 controls the distribution of the salad dressing 18 into the container 58. The dressing packet 64 comprising the salad dressing 18 is contained in the second chamber 63.

The packet 64 comprises a circular shape similar to that of the lid 60. The size of the packet 64 is smaller than the first chamber 62 but larger than the second chamber 64. This overlap in size of the second chamber 64 ensures that when the packet openings 68 are aligned with the chamber openings 66, dressing 18 will always be released from the lid 60 and dispensed into the container 58.

When the first chamber 62 of the lid 60 is rotated clockwise, the second chamber 63 remains stationary. The first chamber 62 is mechanically connected to the chamber wall 74 such that when the first chamber 62 rotates, a chamber wall 74 rotates the same degree as the first chamber 62. The first chamber 62 and chamber wall 74 can be attached by a plurality of bands 76 or pins such that the chamber wall 74 rotates with the first chamber 62, but there is still flexibility between the chamber wall 74 and the lower section of the first chamber 62 such that the packet 64 can be received therebetween.

The second chamber 62 includes the chamber wall 74 having a plurality of openings 66 that allow the salad dressing 18 to be transported from the salad dressing packet 64 to the interior 11 of the container 58. The packet 64 includes a plurality of openings 68 that release the salad dressing 18 into the container 58. As seen in FIGS. 12 and 13, when the first chamber 62 is in a neutral position, the packet openings 68 are not aligned with the chamber openings 66. As seen in FIGS. 14 and 15, when the first chamber 62 rotates clockwise to align the packet openings 68 with the chamber openings 66, dressing 18 is released into the container 58. When the lid 60 is twisted onto the container 58, the user knows that the chamber openings 66 and the packet openings 68 are aligned for dispensing salad dressing 18 because the lid 60 comprises a tab 70 and a tab indicator 72. When the tab 70 is aligned with the tab indicator 72, the dressing 18 is dispensed.

In all of the embodiments, the only way for the salad dressing 18 or condiment to be dispensed into the interior 11 of the container, the packet apertures 26 and the chamber apertures 24 are parallel to each other so that the salad dressing 18 or condiment can flow freely into the container. The food and container kit can be sold with a prepackaged salad dressing (or condiment) and the container or with an individual salad dressing packet (condiment packet) and the container. Optionally, the user could pour salad dressing (or condiment such as pasta sauce) into the packet and introduce the packet into the chamber rather than purchasing a pre-packaged dressing (or condiment such as pasta sauce) container.

While a particular embodiment has been chosen to illustrate the invention, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes and modifications can be made therein without departing from the scope of the invention as defined in the appended claims.