Title:
GRAIN-BASED FOOD PRODUCT
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A grain-based food product comprising a base component and a food inclusion. The food inclusion can have various textures, colors or flavors which make the grain-based product or cereal more appealing to consumers. Both the base component and the food inclusion are marketed in a single product package. The food inclusion is contained in a containment device, separating it from the base product in the product package.



Inventors:
Sleyko, Andrew (Chicago, IL, US)
Mason, Andrea (Crystal Lake, IL, US)
Roman, Linda (Palatine, IL, US)
Application Number:
12/376072
Publication Date:
01/28/2010
Filing Date:
08/02/2006
Assignee:
THE QUAKER OATS COMPANY (Chicago, IL, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
426/392, 426/394
International Classes:
B65D81/32
View Patent Images:



Foreign References:
WO2006051305A12006-05-18
Other References:
"GoogleGroups" published, October 1998 http://groups.google.com/group/misc.health.diabetes/browse_thread/thread/61cc5a676c4995b4/f111fb946e122c9f?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=single+serving+cereal+box+kellogg%27s+grams
Tamime, A.Y., et al. "Yoghurt: Science and Technology, 2nd edition, 1999, pg. 70
"Vitamin Table", published July 19, 2006, http://web.archive.org/web/20060719185255/http://jumk.de/bmi/vitamin-table.php
Henry, C.J.K., et al. "The nutrition handbook for food processors." Woodhead Publishing, 2002, pg. 470
Definition of "Utensil" Collins English Dictionary, © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
"Tidbits: My oatmeal's blue!", September 15, 1999http://www.startribune.com/templates/Print_This_Story?sid=11449586
"Quaker Oats" June 10, 2004 http://web.archive.org/web/20040610225223/http://www.quakeroats.com/qfb_OurBrands/BrandDetail.cfm?BrandID=5
Primary Examiner:
THAKUR, VIREN A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BANNER & WITCOFF, LTD.;and ATTORNEYS FOR CLIENT NO. 006943 (10 SOUTH WACKER DR., SUITE 3000, CHICAGO, IL, 60606, US)
Claims:
1. A food product in a package comprising: a grain-based component; and a food inclusion contained in a containment device to separate the food inclusion from the grain-based component.

2. The food product of claim 1 wherein the grain-based component comprises cereal, oats, rice, grits, barley, granola, corn, potato, tapioca, starch extrudates, wheat, buckwheat, millet, rye or a combination thereof.

3. The food product of claim 1 wherein the grain-based component comprises a hot cereal product or a cold cereal product.

4. The food product of claim 3 wherein the grain-based component comprises an instant type cereal-based component which can be prepared for eating by the addition of liquid.

5. The food product of claim 1 wherein the grain-based component comprises a granola bar or sports type bar.

6. The food product of claim 1 wherein the food inclusion when added to the grain-based component after being prepared changes the taste, texture, appearance, nutritional value or a combination thereof of prepared grain-based component.

7. The food product of claim 6 wherein the grain-based component is contained in a base packet.

8. The food product of claim 6 wherein the containment device comprises a material which maintains the food inclusion fresh for a pre-determined shelf-life.

9. The food product of claim 6 wherein the containment device comprises a pouch, bag or packet.

10. The food product of claim 6 wherein the containment device comprises a spoon, a carton or a packet with multiple partitions.

11. The food product of claim 6 wherein the package comprises a plurality of containment devices and a plurality of base packets containing the grain-based component.

12. The food product of claim 6 wherein the food inclusion changes after being added to the prepared grain-based component.

13. The food product of claim 1 wherein the grain-based component is contained in a base packet.

14. The food product of claim 1 wherein the containment device comprises a material which maintains the food inclusion fresh for a pre-determined shelf-life.

15. The food product of claim 1 wherein the package comprises a plurality of containment devices.

16. The food product of claim 15 wherein the package comprises multiple types of food inclusions.

17. The food product of claim 1 wherein the package comprises a plurality of containment devices and a plurality of base packets containing the grain-based component.

18. The food product of claim 17 wherein the package comprises multiple types of food inclusions.

19. The food product of claim 1 wherein the package comprises a plurality of base packets containing multiple types of grain-based components.

20. The food product of claim 1 wherein the containment device comprises a pouch, bag or packet.

21. The food product of claim 1 wherein the containment device comprises a spoon, a carton or a packet with multiple partitions.

22. The food product of claim 1 wherein the food inclusion is moisture-sensitive or moisture-rich.

23. The food product of claim 1 wherein the food inclusion has a different texture, appearance, flavor, than the grain-based component.

24. The food product of claim 1 wherein the food inclusion adds a nutritional value to the grain-based component.

25. The food product of claim 1 wherein the food inclusion is heat-sensitive.

26. A method for packaging food products comprising: providing a grain-based component; providing a food inclusion in a containment device, wherein the food inclusion is added to the grain-based component before, during, or after preparation of the grain-based component; and combining the grain-based component and the containment device in a single product package.

27. The method of claim 26 wherein the grain-based component comprises cereal, oats, rice, grits, barley, granola, corn, potato, tapioca, starch extrudates, wheat, buckwheat, millet, rye or a combination thereof.

28. The method of claim 26 wherein the grain-based component comprises an instant type cereal-based component which can be prepared for eating by the addition of liquid.

29. The method of claim 26 comprising storing the grain-based component in a base packet.

30. The method of claim 26 comprising providing a plurality of containment devices in the product package.

31. The method of claim 26 comprising: providing a plurality of base packets containing the grain-based component; and providing a plurality of containment devices in the product package.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to food products, and more particularly to grain-based products and packaging of such products.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

For many years, grain-based food products have been a staple of the human diet. Popular grain-based food products include, for example, cereal, oatmeal or grits. Oatmeal products, in particular, are viewed as health foods, providing a rich source of nutrients and fiber. To make oatmeal more convenient to eat, instant oatmeal products have been made available in the market. Preparation of instant oatmeal requires only the addition of liquid to cook the oatmeal. The liquid can be hot before adding to the instant oatmeal, or the liquid/oatmeal mixture can be heated after addition of the liquid. With a growing interest in oatmeal and other grain-based products for its health benefits, it would be desirable to provide a grain-based food product that combines convenience and health attributes with added value, such as additional sensory appeal, texture, nutritional value or other attributes that may be of interest to the consumer. This is particularly important in catering to a growing consumer market with highly diverse tastes, interests, preferences and diet considerations.

From the foregoing discussion, it is desirable to provide an improved grain-based food product which is both convenient and provides added interest or value to the consumer.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to a food product in a package. The food product includes a major or base component and a food inclusion. The base component, in one embodiment, comprises a grain-based component. The food inclusion is separated from the base component. In one embodiment, the food inclusion is contained in a containment device, such as an enclosure packet, bag or a pouch. Both the food inclusion, which is provided in a separate package, and the base component are provided in a single product package.

In another embodiment, a method for packaging a food product is disclosed. The method comprises providing a base food component and food inclusion. The base food component, in one embodiment, comprises a grain-based component. The food inclusion is provided in a containment device. The containment device can be, for example, an enclosure packet, pouch, bag or other article. The containment device separates the food inclusion from the base component. The food inclusion can be added to the base food component during or after preparation for consumption. The base food component and enclosure package(s) are combined in a single product package.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to a food product having a base component and an inclusion. The base component can comprise a grain-based component. The grain-based component comprises, for example, cereal, oats, rice, grits, barley, granola, corn, potato, tapioca, starch extrudates, wheat, buckwheat, millet, rye or a combination thereof (e.g., multi-grain). Other types of grains are also useful. The grain-based product can comprise a hot cereal product or a cold cereal product. The hot cereal product includes a cereal-based component (i. e., a base) and a food inclusion or additive. Ingredients, such as sweeteners, flavorings, colorings, vitamins, minerals and preservatives can be added as desired, either as part of the cereal-based component formulation, or as a separate inclusion, where advantageous.

In one embodiment, the grain-based component comprises an instant hot cereal-based product, such as instant oatmeal, instant grits, instant barley, or a combination thereof. Other types of instant hot cereal or instant food products are also useful. The instant cereal is prepared by the addition of liquid, such as water. Preparing the instant cereal by adding other types of liquid, such as milk, may also be useful. Typically, the liquid is added at a temperature close to its boiling point. Other temperatures may also be useful, depending on the types of cereal or food product. Adding liquid and then heating the cereal in a micro-wave oven is also useful. Non-instant types of cereals or food products are also useful. Such types of cereals or food products are prepared by adding liquid and cooking the mixture.

The food inclusion is provided with the base food component (i.e., the cereal-based component). The food inclusion is physically separated from the base food component. This is advantageous for many reasons, including catering to a consumer market with highly diverse tastes and preferences, preventing migration of moisture or other components from the inclusion to the base, preventing migration of moisture or other components from the base to the inclusion and separating nuts or other potentially allergenic inclusions from the base. In one embodiment, the food inclusion comprises a component that some consumers may be allergic to or do not prefer in their diet because of, for example, health considerations or personal preferences; such an embodiment is particularly useful in a family pack product, where an overall package (e.g., a carton) contains multiple containment devices (e.g., pouches) of different inclusions, so that different family members can choose to add an inclusion they prefer, and/or stay clear from inclusions they wish to avoid. Non-limiting examples of such components include nuts, sugar-or milk-based products, and gluten-containing products. In another embodiment, the food inclusion is moisture-rich or moisture-sensitive, and separating it from the base food component will prevent migration of moisture to the base food component or the food inclusion.

In one embodiment of the invention, the food inclusion has a different texture, appearance, flavor, added nutritional value, or other added attributes of interest and value to the grain-based food component. For example, when added to a prepared hot cereal type product, the food inclusion can impart a different mouthfeel or taste. The food inclusion can provide a contrast of textures and flavors or change the appearance of the prepared cereal, making the cereal product more appealing and variable.

In one embodiment, the food inclusion is heat-sensitive, and is preferably separated from the base food component during preparation. For example, the food inclusion (e.g., a vitamin mix) can be added to the grain-based component (e.g., oatmeal) after preparation. While preferred embodiments comprise a hot, instant cereal type product where the food inclusion is added after the instant cereal is prepared, the inclusion can be added before or during preparation of the hot instant cereal or food product in alternative embodiments of the invention. For example, the food inclusion can be instant milk powder (or some other instant beverage powder) that is added to the cereal and liquid mixture at the start of the cereal preparation, or during the cereal preparation. This is just one non-limiting example of a food inclusion that can be added earlier in the cereal-based component preparation process.

In one embodiment, the food inclusion retains its texture after being added to the prepared cereal. The texture can be retained for a sufficient time for the prepared cereal to be consumed. Alternatively, the texture of the food inclusion can change after it is added to the prepared cereal. In other embodiments, the inclusion blends into the prepared cereal, so as not to be noticed.

In one embodiment, the food inclusion comprises a crunchy texture. Preferably, the food inclusion has a low moisture content and low water activity. The food inclusion can be, for example, toasted or extruded cereal-based products such as puffed rice, wheat germ, granola, whole or chopped nuts, seeds or a combination thereof. In one embodiment, the food inclusion is formed into clusters or nuggets.

A food inclusion having other types of textures, for example, crispy, chewy, gummy or pasty, is also useful. In one embodiment, the inclusion comprises confectionary food pieces such as hard candy pieces, gummy candy pieces, chocolate pieces, non pariels, jimmies, sprinkles and edible glitter, marshmallow pieces, yogurt pieces, dried fruit pieces, intermediate-moisture fruit pieces, sugar infused fruit pieces, fruit gels or pastes, fat-based pastes such as chocolate or peanut butter spreads, sauces, cheese dips or a combination thereof. In one embodiment, the food inclusion is covered with a coating layer, such as chocolate, peanut butter, or a compound coating. The coating layer, for example, melts or dissolves when the food inclusion is added to the prepared cereal, to expose the underlying food inclusion and to leave a swirl or streak of color in the cereal, enhancing its visual appeal.

Additional ingredients, such as sweeteners, flavorings, colorings, vitamins, minerals and preservatives can be added to the food inclusion as desired, or even as the food inclusion itself. Such ingredients can also be added to the grain-based component formulation, depending on the product design. Where vitamins are included in the food inclusion which is added to the grain-based component only after its preparation, they will be subject to less total heat than if they were included in the grain-based component. One advantage of such an embodiment is that heat-mediated destruction of heat labile vitamins can be avoided.

The food inclusion can be provided in a variety of sizes. For example, the food inclusion can range from powders to particles several centimeters in average diameter. Other dimensions are also useful, depending on the form of the food inclusion, and the desired effect on texture, flavor, appearance, nutritional value, or other desired attribute of the prepared cereal.

The base component and the food inclusion, in one embodiment, are provided in one product package (e.g., an outer carton). The product package then includes separate packages or containment devices for containing the base component, such as a cereal-based or a grain-based component, and food inclusion. While a pouch, bag or packet is preferred, other physical containment devices can be used. For example, the inclusion component can be contained within a plastic spoon, carton or other device used to separate the inclusion. Such containment devices can be chosen to be used together with the food product (e.g., a spoon can be used to consume the prepared cereal and to mix in the inclusion), but can also be chosen to be make the product attractive to consumers in other ways. Also, containment devices, such as a spoon, may require additional packaging to hold together the device and the inclusions. In another embodiment, the containment device can be a single carton or packet with multiple, separate containment devices of the food inclusion and the base component (e.g., a family pack product).

Various arrangements can be employed for packaging. In one embodiment, the cereal-based or grain-based component (or base), and food inclusion can be packaged separately in individual serving sized packets or pouches. For example, each could contain one serving of the cereal-based component and one serving of the food inclusion. To make the product ready for eating, one packet of cereal-based component is opened and prepared, and then one packet of food inclusion can be opened and its contents added to the prepared cereal. The packet of cereal base and packet of inclusion can be held together by a seal, so that they are attached to each other. Alternatively, the packet of cereal and packet of inclusion can be contained within an outer package, such as a carton. In an additional embodiment, a large containment device holds both the cereal base component, and a smaller containment device (e.g., packet) which holds the inclusion.

An individual serving size for both un-prepared grain-based component and food inclusion is typically equal to about 40-60 grams. In one embodiment, an individual serving size is about 50 grams. Other serving sizes are also useful. In one embodiment, a serving size comprises about 60-80 weight percent (wt %) unprepared grain-based component and about 20-40 wt % of food inclusion. Other percentages of cereal-based component and food inclusion may also be useful.

Alternatively, the packets can contain multiple servings. For example, the product package contains one packet each of the base component and the food inclusion, with each packet containing multiple servings. This would provide the consumer with the flexibility to customize, as desired, the amount of food inclusion added. Other packaging arrangements can also be useful. Just as an example, the product package can include one packet of base component containing multiple servings and multiple individual serving sized packets of food inclusion. In such case, multiple types of food inclusions can be included in the product package, as desired. Alternatively, the product package can include multiple individual serving sized packets of both grain-based component and food inclusion. In yet another embodiment, the product package can be a family variety package comprising multiple types of grain-based components in individual serving sized packets and multiple types of food inclusions to allow flexibility in customizing the food product for consumption. In family pack embodiments, many different grain base options can be provided in separate packets (e.g., instant oatmeal in one packet, cold cereal in another packet, instant grits in another packet). A variety of inclusions can also be provided.

The material used for the packets should be adequate to maintain its contents fresh for the duration of the product's shelf-life. Freshness, here, relates to the retention of favorable sensory attributes, such as texture, flavor, and appearance. Freshness also reflects maintenance of a non-spoiled state of the cereal-based or grain-based component and the food inclusion while stored in the package. Typically, the packaging should maintain the freshness of the cereal-based component and the inclusion for about close to one year to about 1 ½ years.

While preferred embodiments include hot, instant cereal type products, other grain-based products are also encompassed by this invention. For example, a granola or sports type bar can be provided together with a separate inclusion package. In such an embodiment, the inclusion can be, for example, a gel, spread, paste, or dip that adds value to the granola or sports type bar. Furthermore, in such an embodiment, the package containing the granola or sports type bar and the package containing the inclusion can be contained within an outer package, or alternatively, can be sealed or held together without having an outer package. The techniques available to seal or hold the granola or sports bar package together with the inclusion package are within the ability of one skilled in the packaging arts. Any embodiment of this invention can be made with this alternative method of sealing or holding together the cereal or grain-based package to the inclusion package without using an outer package.

In one embodiment, the material of the packets comprises polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC) or Saran resins. A material having multiple layers, which include PVDC or Saran resins and other materials can also be used. Such materials, for example, are manufactured by Graphic Packaging International, Inc. (GPI), Exxon Mobil Corporation (Exxon), Pliant Corporation (Pliant), Bemis Company, Inc. (Bemis), or American Printpak (Printpak). Table 1 includes a list of various types of materials which can be used for forming the packets.

The material used for packaging the cereal-based component comprises, for example, 25# Natural Kraft/6# PVDC (Saran)/9# polyethylene (PE) from GPI. Table 1 provides examples of the materials used for packaging the food inclusion.

TABLE 1
MANUFACTURERPRODUCTCOMPOSITION
Exxon210 ASB-Xmonoweb biaxially oriented polypropylene (OPP)
with acrylic-coated outer layer and PVDC-coated
sealant layer
PliantUnipeel 3543 mil, high density polyethylene
(HDPE)/HDPE/ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA)
Unilon 94203 mil HDPE/tie/HDPE/Nylon/tie/HDPE/low
linear density polyethylene (LLDPE) blend
Unipeel 3642.2 mil, HDPE/HDPE + 2,6-di-t-butyl-4-methyl
phenol(BHT)/EVA
X5:045A2.2 mil, polypropylene (PP)/PP/maleated PP
(mPP) cast film
Bemis48 ga polyethyleneterephthalate (PET)/adh/2.5
mil HDPE coex
48 ga PET/adh/3.0 mil HDPE coex
48 ga PET/1.5 mil HDPE coex
GPIIQO Paper25# Natural Kraft/6# PVDC (Saran)/9# PE
RAR Kraft27.5# Natural Kraft/12# PVDC/12# PE
Printpak75 ga PET/ink/adh/3.5 mil HDPE coex with
metallocene

A combination of these materials, and these materials at different thicknesses, can be used. Other types of materials, such as metal foils for example, which can maintain the integrity of the cereal or food inclusion are also useful.

While the invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to various embodiments, it will be recognized by those skilled in the art that modifications and changes may be made to the present invention without departing from the spirit and scope thereof. The scope of the invention should therefore be determined not with reference to the above description but with reference to the appended claims along with their full scope of equivalents.