Title:
Food container, condiment container and method of mounting the condiment container to the food container
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A food container, such as a scoop formed of lightweight paperboard, has a slit (or slot) extending in substantially a straight line across a front panel thereof for receiving a flange of a condiment container such as a cup covered by a lid. The condiment container may be securely attached the food container by inserting the flange in to the slit, from the outside of the food container, sufficiently that at least one locking feature on the flange becomes disposed within the food container. At least one locking feature is formed on a surface of the flange. The locking feature is tapered from a leading edge to a trailing edge thereof, and has a thickness (t2) at its trailing edge which is substantially greater, such as five to ten times greater, than its thickness (t1) at the leading edge thereof The locking feature can be in the geometric form of a triangle, having an apex oriented towards a leading edge of the flange. Two locking features may be provided on the flange, such as on the top surface thereof The flange itself extends substantially perpendicular to a side wall of the condiment container and may be integral with a portion of a lip which extends from a top edge of the side wall. The condiment cup may be formed of a resilient material, selected from the group consisting of polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene. The lid for the condiment cup may be formed of a material selected from the group consisting of foil or plastic laminate.



Inventors:
Fear, Robert E. (Mahway, NJ, US)
Bernstein, Linda A. (Mainville, OH, US)
Zavatone, James F. (Loveland, OH, US)
Application Number:
09/758069
Publication Date:
10/18/2001
Filing Date:
01/10/2001
Assignee:
FEAR ROBERT E.
BERNSTEIN LINDA A.
ZAVATONE JAMES F.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
220/23.4, 220/23.83, 229/400
International Classes:
B65D21/02; (IPC1-7): B65D21/028; B65D21/024
View Patent Images:
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20070235507Forms containing removable hang tags and methods of producing the sameOctober, 2007Bethke et al.
20040099717Colorful-indexing portfolioMay, 2004Lee
20070262126Article holder with postcardNovember, 2007Precheur et al.
20060289611Folder with a standDecember, 2006Yeh
20060022022Gift card boxFebruary, 2006Bowman
20080110967Carton With Multiple Ply End Handle ReinforcementMay, 2008Walling
20070215680Shipment packageSeptember, 2007Temperini



Primary Examiner:
ELKINS, GARY E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
OSTRAGER CHONG & FLAHERTY LLP (NEW YORK, NY, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A food container having a generally rectangular panel, comprising: a slit extending across the panel for receiving a flange of a condiment container.

2. A food container, according to claim 1, wherein: the panel has a top and a bottom side and the slit is disposed nearer to the top than to the bottom side of the panel.

3. A food container, according to claim 1, wherein: the panel has a top and a bottom side and the slit is disposed nearer to the bottom than to the top side of the panel.

4. A food container, according to claim 2, further comprising: a second slit disposed nearer to the bottom than to the top side.

5. A food container, according to claim 1, wherein: the slit has a length dimension which is between 10-50% of a width dimension of the panel.

6. A food container, according to claim 1, wherein: the panel has a top and a bottom side and the slit is disposed equidistant from both sides.

7. A food container, according to claim 1, further comprising: a second slit next to the slit extending across the panel for receiving a flange of a second condiment container.

8. A food container, according to claim 1, wherein: the slit is in a shape selected from the group consisting of a straight line, a curved line, an “H” design, a “U” design, or at least two cuts each designed to hold a single locking mechanism.

9. A food container, according to claim 2, wherein: the slit extends in substantially a straight line across the panel.

10. A food container, according to claim 3, wherein: the slit extends in substantially a straight line across the panel.

11. A food container, according to claim 1, wherein: the food container is formed from a material chosen from the group consisting of lightweight paperboard, corrugated composite structures, honeycomb composite structures, plastic or plastic laminate.

12. A food container having a generally cylindrical panel and a generally circular bottom attached to an end of the generally cylindrical panel, comprising: a slit extending across the panel for receiving a flange of a condiment container.

13. A food container, according to claim 12, wherein: the panel has a top and a bottom side and the slit is disposed nearer to the top than to the bottom side of the panel.

14. A food container, according to claim 12, wherein: the panel has a top and a bottom side and the slit is disposed nearer to the bottom than to the top side of the panel.

15. A food container, according to claim 13, further comprising: a second slit disposed nearer to the bottom than to the top side.

16. A food container, according to claim 12, wherein: the slit has a length dimension which is between 10-50% of a width dimension of the panel.

17. A food container, according to claim 12, wherein: the slit is disposed between a top side and a bottom side of the panel.

18. A food container, according to claim 12, further comprising: a second slit next to the slit extending across the panel for receiving a flange of a second condiment container.

19. A food container, according to claim 12, wherein: the slit is in a shape selected from the group consisting of a straight line, a curved line, an “H” design, a “U” design, or at least two cuts each designed to hold a single locking mechanism.

20. A food container, according to claim 13, wherein: the slit extends in substantially a straight line across the panel.

21. A food container, according to claim 14, wherein: the slit extends in substantially a straight line across the panel.

22. A food container, according to claim 12, wherein: the food container is formed from a material chosen from the group consisting of lightweight paperboard, corrugated composite structures, honeycomb composite structures, plastic or plastic laminate.

23. A condiment container comprising: a side wall; a flange extending from the side wall and having a top surface, a bottom surface and a leading edge; at least one locking feature formed on a one of the top and bottom surfaces of the flange; the at least one locking feature is tapered from a leading edge thereof to a trailing edge thereof.

24. A condiment container, according to claim 23, wherein: the at least one locking feature has a thickness at its trailing edge which is substantially greater than its thickness at the leading edge thereof.

25. A condiment container, according to claim 24, wherein: the thickness of at least one locking feature at its trailing edge is five to ten times greater that the thickness at the leading edge.

26. A condiment container, according to claim 24, wherein: the thickness of the at least one locking feature at its leading edge is substantially equal to the thickness of a material of the flange.

27. A condiment container, according to claim 23, wherein: the at least one locking feature is formed on the top surface of the flange

28. A condiment container, according to claim 23, wherein: the at least one locking feature is an out-of-plane, raised, deformation of the flange.

29. A condiment container, according to claim 23, wherein: the at least one locking feature is in the geometric form of a triangle, having an apex oriented towards the leading edge of the flange.

30. A condiment container, according to claim 23, wherein: two locking features are provided on the flange.

31. A condiment container, according to claim 23, wherein: the flange extends substantially perpendicular to the side wall.

32. A condiment container, according to claim 23, wherein: the flange is integral with a portion of a lip which extends from a top edge of the side wall.

33. A condiment container, according to claim 23, wherein: the flange is sized and shaped to securely attach the condiment container to a corresponding slit on a panel of a food container.

34. A condiment container, according to claim 23, wherein: the condiment is formed of a resilient material, selected from the group consisting of polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene.

35. A condiment container, according to claim 23, further comprising: a lid extending over an opening of the condiment container.

36. A condiment container, according to claim 35, wherein: the lid is sealed to a lip extending around the opening.

37. A condiment container, according to claim 35, wherein: the lid comprises a thin membrane of material selected from the group consisting of foil or plastic laminate.

38. Method of mounting a condiment container to a food container, comprising: providing a condiment container having a side wall; a flange extending from the side wall and having a top surface, a bottom surface and a leading edge; and at least one locking feature formed on a one of the top and bottom surfaces of the flange; providing a food container having a mounting feature which is a slit extending in substantially a straight line across a front panel for receiving the flange of the condiment container; and inserting the flange into the slit, from the outside of the food container, sufficiently that the at least one locking feature is within the food container, thereby securely attaching the condiment container to the food container.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION(S)

[0001] This is a continuation-in-part of commonly-owned, copending provisional patent application number 60/193,995, filed Apr. 1, 2000, entitled IMPROVED FRENCH FRY SCOOP.

TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The invention relates to containers for food items such as French fries, chicken strips, or any other finger foods, and containers for condiments such as ketchup and, more particularly, to techniques for attaching or mounting a condiment container to a food item container.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] Containers are known for holding individual servings of food items such as French fried potatoes (French fries) or chicken pieces, such as are commonly available from “fast food” restaurants. These containers are typically formed of paperboard stock which has been cut, embossed, and/or perforated. Techniques for manufacturing a container from paperboard stock are well known, and include die-cutting, and the like.

[0004] One well-known type of paperboard container for food items is a cup. A cup comprises a generally cylindrical body closed at one end by a generally circular panel. The food may be deposited and removed through the remaining open end of the body. By the term “generally cylindrical” it is meant that the body has a conic shape whose sides make an angle with the bottom panel ranging from 90 to 45 degrees. By the term “generally circular” it is meant that the bottom is in the shape of a circle or ellipse.

[0005] Another well-known type of paperboard container for food items is a “scoop”. A scoop comprises a generally rectangular front panel having two side edges attached to two side edges of a generally rectangular, similarly sized and shaped, rear panel. The scoop further comprises a bottom panel for connecting a bottom edge of the front panel to a bottom edge of the rear panel. The remaining top sides of the panels are not attached, and define an opening into which food items can be inserted into the scoop by a food server and removed from the scoop by the customer (consumer). By the term “generally rectangular” it is meant that the panel is a tetragonal figure whose shape approximates a rectangle (having two opposite sides of substantially equal length and no inside angle that is not within 50% of 90 degrees).

[0006] Items served in scoop containers, such as French fries or chicken strips, can be eaten directly from the scoop within the restaurant. They are also frequently served for consumption outside of the restaurant environment, as in a vehicle, in the home, or while the customer is walking. These food products are often accompanied by a serving of a condiment (or garnish) which the customer consumes along with the food product. For example, French fries are frequently served with ketchup and chicken pieces are often served with dipping sauce.

[0007] These condiments may be served and/or dispensed in various ways. For example, the customer may dispense the condiments from a bulk container (holding several servings), such as a squeeze bottle, directly onto the food item or into open individual-serving-sized cups. Individual portions may be served to the customer in foil, tear-open pouches (packets) or in individual-serving-sized cups (or tubs), which are pre-filled with a serving of the condiment and sealed by a removable membrane (lid).

[0008] Condiment containers of the type which are a cup having a lid are typically formed of a resilient material such as polyethylene, such as by vacuum forming (e.g., thermoforming). Various other materials can be used to form the cup, including polypropylene, polystyrene, thick metal foils, impregnated paper, paper, foil, plastic or a combination thereof The cup consists of a reservoir for holding a volume (the “serving”) of the condiment and a lip (or flange) which extends completely around the top of the cup. The cups are filled with condiment, then the reservoir is sealed by the lid. The condiment cup is opened by peeling the lid back from the lip to expose the reservoir and the condiment contained therein. The lid is typically a membrane of a thin foil or plastic laminate which is sealed to the lip by an adhesive or which is heat sealed to the lip of the cup.

[0009] U.S. Pat. No. 4,854,466 discloses a food container which is a scoop and a condiment container which is a cup having a lid. The condiment cup has a reservoir and a lip surrounding the reservoir opening. Support fingers are formed in the lip and can be bent out-of-plane and engaged over the vertical wall of the food container to hold the condiment cup on the container. The condiment cup is essentially “hung” from a top edge of a panel of the scoop.

[0010] U.S. Pat. No. 5,842,631 discloses a condiment compartment which mounts on the outside of the front panel of a scoop. The condiment compartment is attached with an adhesive to the scoop so as to be positioned generally in the center of the front panel of the scoop. Other configurations are discussed in the patent.

DISCLOSURE (SUMMARY) OF THE INVENTION

[0011] It is an object of the invention to provide an improved construction for a food container such as a scoop formed of lightweight paperboard, a cup, an auto-bottom box, a paperboard container or folding carton of any type.

[0012] It is an object of the invention to provide an improved construction for a condiment container such as a cup having a membrane seal.

[0013] It is an object of the invention to provide an improved method of mounting a condiment container to a food container.

[0014] According to the invention, a food container, such as a scoop, has a condiment container mounting feature which comprises a slit (or slot) extending across a panel of the food container for receiving a flange of a condiment container such as a cup covered by a lid. The condiment container may be securely attached to the food container by inserting the flange into the slit, from the outside of the food container, sufficiently that at least one locking feature on the flange becomes disposed within the food container.

[0015] According to a feature of the invention, one or more slits may be disposed at and perpendicular to any longitudinal point along the front or rear panel and may be centered between two sides of the front panel or offset to either side. More than one slit may be disposed on the scoop to accommodate different uses. The slit has a length dimension (L) which may be between 10-50% of a width dimension (Wt) of the front panel.

[0016] According to a feature of the invention, the condiment container comprises a flange extending from a side wall of the container, and at least one locking feature is formed on a surface of the flange. The locking feature is tapered from a leading edge to a trailing edge thereof, and has a thickness (t2) at its trailing edge which is substantially greater, such as five to ten times greater, than its thickness (t1) at the leading edge thereof The locking feature can be in the geometric form of a triangle, having an apex oriented towards a leading edge of the Range. One or more locking features may be provided on the flange, such as on the top surface thereof The flange itself extends substantially perpendicular to a side wall of the condiment container, and may be integral with a portion of a lip which extends from a top edge of the side wall. The lip of the condiment container has a thickness between 0.010 inches and 0.10 inches, preferably being between 0.010 inches and 0.020 inches. The condiment cup may be formed of a resilient material, selected from the group consisting of polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene. The lid for the condiment cup may be formed of a material selected from the group consisting of foil or plastic laminate.

[0017] The condiment container (cup) of the present invention attaches easily to the food container or other similar container of the present invention.

[0018] The invention permits individual condiment containers to be formed, filled and sealed, and shipped in bulk to the fast food restaurants. When the scoop is filled with a food such as French fries, the condiment container may be easily attached to it by inserting the flange of the container into a slit on the scoop. The scoop may contain one or more slits to accommodate a user's choice of eating location. For example, if the customer chooses to consume the food in a restaurant, the container may be inserted into a slit located near the bottom of the scoop so that the condiment container may support the scoop, allowing it to stand in an upright position on the top surface of a table. If the customer chooses to consume his or her food while driving a car, the container may be inserted into a slit located near the top of the scoop, so that the scoop may support the condiment container and still be inserted into an automobile cup holder.

[0019] The addition of a mounting feature which is a slit to the food container (scoop) does not add to the material cost of the food container.

[0020] Other objects, features and advantages of the invention will become apparent in light of the following description thereof

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0021] Reference will be made in detail to preferred embodiments of the invention, examples of which are illustrated in the accompanying drawings. The drawings are intended to be illustrative, not limiting. Although the invention will be described in the context of these preferred embodiments, it should be understood that it is not intended to limit the spirit and scope of the invention to these particular embodiments.

[0022] Elements of the figures are typically numbered as follows. The most significant digits (hundreds) of the reference number corresponds to the figure number. Elements of FIG. 1 are typically numbered in the range of 100-199. Elements of FIG. 2 are typically numbered in the range of 200-299. Similar elements throughout the drawings may be referred to by similar reference numerals. For example, the element 199 in a figure may be similar, and possibly identical to the element 299 in an other figure. In some cases, similar (including identical) elements may be referred to with similar numbers in a single drawing. For example, each of a plurality of elements 199 may be referred to individually as 199a, 199b, 199c, etc. Such relationships, if any, between similar elements in the same or different figures will become apparent throughout the specification, including, if applicable, in the claims and abstract.

[0023] Throughout the following description(s) of the drawings, the following terms may be used to describe and/or “point to” various portions of elements in the drawings. The terms “top”, “upper”, “bottom”, “lower”, “left” and “right” refer to directions on the Figure being discussed, in its normal orientation. The terms “inside”, “inner”, “outside” and “outer” may also be used, and should be given their ordinary meanings, as consistent with the overall description, unless specified otherwise.

[0024] The structure, operation, and advantages of the present preferred embodiment of the invention will become further apparent upon consideration of the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

[0025] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a food container and a condiment container, according to the invention;

[0026] FIG. 2 is an exploded perspective view of the food and condiment containers of FIG. 1, according to the invention;

[0027] FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of the condiment container and a portion of the food container of FIG. 1, taken on a line 3-3 through FIG. 1, according to the invention;

[0028] FIG. 4 is a top plan view of the condiment container, according to the invention;

[0029] FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of a portion of the condiment container of FIG. 4, taken on a line 5-5 through FIG. 4, according to the invention; and

[0030] FIG. 6 is an illustration of various permutations available for slit designs.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0031] FIGS. 1-5 illustrate an embodiment of a food container 100, a condiment container 200, and a method of attaching or mounting the condiment container 200 to the food container 100, according the invention. FIG. 1 illustrates the condiment container 200 already mounted to the food container 100, and FIG. 2 illustrates the condiment container 200 prior to mounting to the food container.

The Food Container

[0032] The food container 100 is, by way of example, a “scoop”, such as is commonly used to contain a serving of French fried potatoes, chicken strips, or other finger foods (not shown). The scoop 100 comprises a generally rectangular front panel 102 having two generally rectangular side flaps contiguous therewith (not shown), a generally rectangular rear panel 104, and a bottom panel 106. As best viewed in FIGS. 1 and 2, the front panel 102 is spaced apart from the rear panel 104 such as they would be when the container is filled with the aforementioned foods that rest on the bottom panel 106. The food container 100 is typically formed of lightweight paperboard, since such a container is typically intended for single usage (disposable). The front panel 102 has four sides (or edges) 102a, 102b, 102c and 102d. The rear panel 104 has four sides (or edges) 104a, 104b, 104c and 104d. The bottom panel has four sides (or edges) 106a, 106b, 106c, and 106d. The front panel 102 has an outer surface 102e and an inner surface 102f. The rear panel 104 has an outer surface 104e and an inner surface 104f The bottom panel 106 has an outer surface 106e and an inner surface 106f. The side 102a of the front panel 102 is the top (as viewed) edge of the front panel 102, and may be curved as shown. The side 104a of the rear panel 104 is the top (as viewed) edge of the rear panel 104, and may be curved as shown.

[0033] Typically, two panels of a paperboard container are made to be foldably connected with one another by forming a score line in the paperboard blank from which the container is assembled. As used herein, a “score line” is a rupturing of the surface of blank paperboard sheet material, typically resulting in a depression on one side of the sheet and a welt on the other, which facilitates the paperboard blank being folded along that line and connected to designated panels. The side 102b of the front panel 102 is foldably connected and contiguous with a side flap (not shown), which is adhesively secured to the outer surface 104e of the back panel near the side 104d. The side 102d of the front panel 102 is foldably connected and contiguous with a second side flap (not shown), which is adhesively secured to the outer surface 104e of the back panel 104 near the side 104b. The sides 106a and 106b of the bottom panel are foldably connected and contiguous with the sides 102c of the front panel and 104c of the back panel, respectively. The bottom panel 106 has a central score line 106g which permits the bottom panel to be folded in half when the container is flattened for storage or shipment.

[0034] The front panel 102 has a height dimension Hf between its top edge 102a and its bottom edge 102c. The rear panel 104 has a height dimension Hr between its top edge 104a and its bottom edge 104c. The front panel 102 is typically shorter than (not as tall as) the rear panel 104—in other words, Hf<Hr. The front panel 102 and rear panel 104 may both be tapered, as shown, having a width dimension Wt across their top edges 102a and 104a, respectively, which is greater than a width dimension Wb across their bottom sides 102c and 104c, respectively—in other words, Wt>Wb. Typically, the width dimensions of the front and rear panels 102 and 104 are substantially identical with one another. The front panel 102, back panel 104 and bottom 106 of the food container 100 form a reservoir 112 for containing the serving of the food item. In use, the top edges 102a and 104a of these two panels 102 and 104, respectively, are spaced apart from one another, thereby forming an opening 114 for accessing the reservoir 112 of the food container 100. In this manner, food items such as French fries (not shown) may be inserted into the food container 100 by a food server (not shown) for serving a customer (not shown), and the food items may be removed from the food container 100 for consumption (e.g., eating) by the customer

[0035] As best viewed in FIG. 2, a slit 110 is provided in the front panel 102 of the food container 100. The slit 110 is a “mounting feature” of the container 100, and is sized, shaped and positioned for receiving a corresponding “mounting feature” (230) of the condiment container 200 which is described in greater detail hereinbelow. The “slit” 110 is a cut that extends completely through the material of the front panel 102 from the outer surface 102e thereof to the inner surface 102f thereof.

[0036] As best viewed in FIG. 2, the slit 110 extends generally horizontally (as viewed), across the front panel 102, between the sides 102b and 102d of the front panel 102. The slit can be a variety of shapes and sizes, as shown in FIG. 6, including but not limited to a substantially straight line 601, a curved line 602, an “H” design 603, a “U” design 604a and 604b, or a series of smaller slits 605, each designed to hold a single condiment container locking mechanism A distance between the slit 110 and the top edge 102a of the front panel 102 is a dimension d1. A distance between the slit 110 and the bottom side 102c of the front panel 102 is a dimension d2. The slit 110 may be disposed anywhere on the container. For example, as shown in FIG. 2, the slit 110 is positioned so that the dimension d1 is less than half the height dimension Hf of the front panel 102—in other words, d1<=Hf/2. In this configuration, a user/customer can hold both the condiment container and food container in one hand or insert them into an automobile cup holder. The slit may also be positioned so that d1 is greater than half the height dimension Hf of the front panel 102—in other words d1>=Hf/2. In this configuration, the condiment container can be positioned such that its bottom surface 210 is aligned with the bottom surface of the food container, permitting it to support the food containers in an upright position.

[0037] The slit 110 is preferably centered between the two sides 102b and 102d, and has a length L which is preferably between 10-50% of the width dimension Wt of the front panel 102. However, the slit may be off center or may include 2 or more slits. As will become evident, the vertical position of the slit 110 is related to the height dimension (H) of the condiment container 200 and the length L of the slit 110 is related to a width dimension (W) of a mounting feature (230) of the condiment container 200. The slit 110 also has a vertical dimension which, in the case of the slit 110 simply being a cut through the material of the front panel 102, may be zero (0 inches, 0 mm), or the slit 110 may be a slot having a non-zero vertical dimension, such as a few thousandths of an inch (a few hundredths of a millimeter). In FIG. 1, the slit 110 is shown as a slot having a non-zero vertical extent, for illustrative clarity. In a further embodiment, the slit may also be configured as a hole having a generally circular or elliptical configuration to accommodate a similarly shaped condiment container mounting feature.

The Condiment Container

[0038] The condiment container 200 is, by way of example, a cup (or tub) for containing a serving (predetermined volume) of a condiment 201. The condiment container 200 is generally in the form of a rectangular prism—in other words, a box having four sides (side walls), 204, 206 and 208, and a bottom 210. The four side walls 202, 204, 206, 208 and bottom 210 of the condiment container 200 define a reservoir 212 for containing the serving of the condiment 201. The top edges of the four side walls 202, 204, 206, 208 of the condiment container 200 are generally coplanar and form an opening 214 in the top (as viewed) of the condiment container 200, for accessing the reservoir 212 of the condiment container 200. A lip 216 extends completely around the opening 214 of the reservoir 212, and is generally perpendicular to the side walls 202 . . . 208. As best viewed in FIG. 3, a dimension H is the height of the condiment container 200, which is essentially the height dimension of the reservoir 212. As best viewed in FIG. 4, the reservoir 212 is generally rectangular in cross-section, having cross-dimensions X and Y, respectively.

[0039] The condiment container 200 is filled (e.g., by a condiment manufacturer) with condiment 201, then the reservoir 212 is sealed by a lid 220 which extends over the opening 214. The lid 220 is sealed to the lip 216 by a narrow band (strip) of an adhesive 222 that extends around the periphery of the lid 220. Alternatively, the lid 222 can be heat-sealed to the lip 216. As is best viewed in FIG. 1, the lid 220 can be peeled away from the lip 216 to expose the condiment 201 within the reservoir 212, for use by the customer (not shown). In FIG. 3, the condiment container 200 is shown without the lid 220 (with the lid 220 removed).

Mounting Features

[0040] As mentioned hereinabove, the slit 110 is a mounting feature of the food container 100. A corresponding mounting feature of the condiment container 200 is now described.

[0041] As best viewed in FIGS. 3, 4 and 5, a flange 230 extends from a one side wall 202 of the condiment container 200, substantially perpendicular to the side wall 202. The flange 230 is generally planar, has a top surface 230a and a bottom surface 230b, is generally parallel to the bottom 210 of the condiment container 200, and has a “leading” edge 230c. The term “leading” edge refers to the fact that, in use, when the condiment container 200 is mounted (attached) to the food container 100, it is the leading edge 230c of the flange 230 that first enters the slit 110 in the food container 100. Ultimately, as best viewed in FIGS. 3 and 5, substantially the entire flange 230 is inserted through the slit 110 to securely attach the condiment container 200 to the food container 100.

[0042] The flange 230 has a width dimension W. The flange 230 has a thickness t1 which is preferably the thickness of the material of the overall condiment container 200, and is suitably integrally formed with the condiment container 200, by thermoforming (vacuum forming) a sheet of plastic. The flange 230 is sized and shaped to fit into the slot 110. Therefore, the width W of the flange 230 is no greater than, preferably slightly less than, the length L of the slot 110—in other words, W<=L.

[0043] The flange 230 is formed (sized and shaped) to securely attach the condiment container 200 to the food container 100, in cooperation with the slit 110 on the food container 100. At least one, preferably two locking features 232, 234 are formed on a surface, preferably the top surface 230a of the flange 230. These features 232, 234 are suitably out-of-plane, raised, deformations of the thermoformed plastic material of the flange 230 and condiment container 200. As best viewed in FIGS. 2 and 4, the locking features are suitably in the geometric form of triangles, such as isosceles triangles, having an apex oriented towards the leading edge 230c of the flange 230. However, the locking feature may be in the form of any geometric shape having suitable dimensions and configuration as described hereinbelow. Additionally, the portion of the flange between one or more locking mechanisms may be cut out to allow insertion into a two or more slit configuration.

[0044] As best viewed in FIG. 5, a cross-section of representative one 232 of the locking features 232, 234, the locking feature 232 is tapered, from a “leading” edge (or point) 232a thereof to a “trailing” edge 232b thereof. At the point 232a, the locking feature 232 has a thickness equal to the thickness t1 of the material of the flange 230. At the trailing edge 232b, the locking feature 232b has a thickness t2 which is substantially greater than t1, such as a multiple of approximately five to ten times greater than t1—in other words t2>>t1. The increase of the effective thickness of the flange 230 is thus gradually increased from a relatively small dimension t1 to a relatively large dimension t2.

[0045] Preferably, and as illustrated, the flange 230 is an extension of that portion of the lip 216 that extends from the top edge of the side wall 202. However, it is within the scope of the invention that the flange 230 is not integral with the lip 216. For example, in a further embodiment of the invention, an additional flange, or just a locking feature, may be formed in the side wall 202 of the condiment container.

[0046] As mentioned above, the slit 110 is disposed at a distance d2 above the base 106 of the food container 100. As best viewed in FIG. 1, this position should be high enough up the front panel 102 of the food container 100 so that there is “clearance” for attaching the condiment container 200 to the food container 100. Generally speaking, if the food is to be eaten while walking or driving a car, the distance d2 between the slit 110 and the bottom side 102c of the front panel 102 should be greater than the height H of the condiment container 200—in other words, d2>H. If the condiment container is to be used as a support for the food container, the distance d2 should be equal to the height H—in other words, d2=H.

[0047] In use, the flange 230 is inserted into the slit 110, from the outside of the food container 100, sufficiently that locking features 232, 234 are within the food container, thereby securely attaching the condiment container 200 to the food container 100.

Materials and Dimensions

[0048] The food container 100, condiment container 200 and lid 220 may be formed of the following exemplary materials and may have the following approximate dimensions (expressed in both inches and milimeters (mm)). These materials and dimensions are not intended to be limiting—other materials and dimensions being within the scope of the invention.

[0049] The food container 100 may be formed of paperboard, or of materials other than paperboard, such as corrugated or honeycomb composite structures, plastic or plastic laminate. The material of the food container 100 may have a thickness dimension of approximately 0.022 inches or 0.55 mm, such as 0.38-0.64 mm. The food container 100 may have the following exemplary dimensions:

[0050] Hf=approximately 5.5 inches or 140 mm;

[0051] Hr=approximately 7.0 inches or 180 mm;

[0052] Wt=approximately 4.0 inches or 100 mm;

[0053] Wb=approximately 2.5 inches or 635 mm;

[0054] d1=approximately 0.5 inches or 13 mm;

[0055] d2=approximately 3.5 inches or 90 mm; and

[0056] L=approximately 1.25 inches or 32 mm

[0057] The condiment container 200 may be formed of a resilient material such as polyethylene, such as by vacuum forming. Various other materials can be used to form the condiment container, including polypropylene, polystyrene, thick metal foils, impregnated paper, paper, foil, plastic or a combination of these materials. The criteria for selecting a suitable material is that the material must be amendable to being formed into a condiment container and, after being formed it must hold it shape. Further, the material for the condiment container should be such that the flange (230) must be stiff enough to retain its shape, but at the same time must be resilient enough that the locking features (232, 234) can deform in a resilient manner to securely hold the condiment container to the food container. The condiment container 200 may have the following exemplary dimensions:

[0058] H=approximately 1.25 inches or 32 mm;

[0059] X=approximately 1.625 inches or 41 mm;

[0060] Y=approximately 1.25 inches or 32 mm;

[0061] t1=approximately 0.012 inches or 0.3 mm; and

[0062] t2=approximately 0.125 inches or 3.0 mm.

[0063] The lip 220 extends approximately 0.125 inches or 3.0 mm from the sidewalls 204, 206 and 208 of the condiment container 200, and the flange extends approximately 0.56 inches or 14 mm from the sidewall 202 of the condiment container 200. The locking feature 232 (and 234) is in the form of an isosceles triangle having a base dimension of approximately 0.312 inches or 8 mm, and side dimensions of 0.250 inches or 6 mm.

[0064] The lid 220 of the condiment container 200 is typically a flat (planar) membrane or sheet of a thin foil or plastic laminate. A suitable thickness for the lid 220 is approximately 0.005 inches or 0.13 mm.

[0065] The present invention is useful for serving condiment along with a food item, such as

[0066] French fries and a serving of ketchup from a “fast-food” vendor, and enables a customer to carry both the food item and the condiment with one hand, leaving the other hand free, such as to unlock and/or open a door, such as a car door.

[0067] While the invention has been described in combination with embodiments thereof, it is evident that many alternatives, modifications, and variations will be apparent to those skilled in the art in light of the foregoing description. For example, the inventive concept may be applied to any type of paperboard food serving container of any shape and size, and may include locking features of many different shapes and locations on the condiment container. Accordingly, it is intended to embrace all such alternatives, modifications and variations as fall within the spirit and scope of the appended claims.