Title:
Consumables container with nested insert
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An improved container for multiple food products comprising a receptacle and a nested insert. The receptacle and nested insert are injection molded. One removable seal covers the resultant container having two separate food product compartments. The container allows a consumer to hold the container having both food product compartments in one hand, thus enabling the consumer to mix and eat the food products with the other hand. The container is ideal for chips and salsa, crackers and cheese, or any other compatible food products that are desirably kept separate until shortly before consuming.



Inventors:
Lopez-garcia, Adolfo (Col. Industrial Vallejo, MX)
Application Number:
10/934225
Publication Date:
03/09/2006
Filing Date:
09/03/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D81/32
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
THAKUR, VIREN A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CARSTENS & CAHOON, LLP (DALLAS, TX, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A food product container comprising: a receptacle comprising: a receptacle base; a receptacle wall attached to said receptacle base; a receptacle mouth end having a flange attached to said receptacle wall; an insert comprising: an insert cup having: an insert base; an insert wall attached to said insert base; an insert mouth end attached to said insert wall; and a rim extending beyond and integral with said insert mouth end to form a pass-through opening, wherein said flange is mated with said rim such that said insert is nested with said receptacle such that said receptacle mouth end and said insert mouth end reside substantially in a same plane.

2. The container in claim 1 wherein a single removable seal is placed over said receptacle mouth end and said insert mouth end.

3. The container in claim 1 wherein said insert mouth end comprises a first removable seal.

4. The container in claim 3 wherein said receptacle mouth end comprises a second removal seal.

5. The container in claim 1 wherein said receptacle stores a first food product and said insert stores a second food product.

6. The container in claim 1 wherein said flange further comprises a protruded section, and wherein said rim comprises an L-shaped rim having a perpendicular section, wherein said protruded section exerts an inward force upon said perpendicular section.

7. A food product container for separately storing at least two food products comprising: a receptacle comprising: a receptacle base; a receptacle wall connected to said receptacle base, wherein said receptacle wall extends outwardly from said receptacle base to form a receptacle mouth end; a flange integral to said receptacle wall about said receptacle mouth end; an insert comprising: an insert cup, a rim integral with and extending beyond said insert cup such as to form a pass-through between said insert cup and a portion of said rim, wherein said rim mates with said flange thereby nesting said insert in said receptacle.

8. The food product container of claim 7, wherein said flange further comprises a protruded section, and wherein said rim comprises an L-shaped rim having a perpendicular section, wherein said protruded section exerts an inward force upon said perpendicular section.

9. The food product container of claim 7, wherein said insert and said flange mates by a snap fitting means.

10. The food product container of claim 7, wherein said receptacle and said insert further comprise a single removable seal.

11. The food product container of claim 7, wherein said receptacle stores a first food product and said insert cup stores a second food product.

12. A method for making a container having at least two food products comprising an insert having a cup and a rim, wherein said rim extends beyond said cup to form a pass-through opening, and wherein said insert is nested in a receptacle having a flange about a receptacle mouth end, said method comprising the steps of: a) separately molding said receptacle having said flange and said insert having said insert cup and said rim wherein said rim and said flange are dimensioned such that said rim can be connected to said receptacle mouth end; b) filling said receptacle through said receptacle mouth end with a first food product and filling said insert cup with a second food product; and c) nesting said insert about said receptacle mouth end.

13. The method of claim 12, further comprising the step of sealing said receptacle and said insert with a single removable seal after step c).

14. The method in claim 12 wherein said first food product at step b) comprises a crispy snack product and wherein said second food product at step b) comprises a non-crispy condiment.

15. A method for making a container having at least two food products comprising an insert having a cup and a rim, wherein said rim extends beyond said cup to form a pass-through opening, and wherein said insert is nested in a receptacle having a flange about a receptacle mouth end, said method comprising the steps of: a) separately molding said receptacle having said flange and said insert having said insert cup and said rim wherein said rim and said flange are dimensioned such that said rim can be connected to said receptacle mouth end; b) nesting said insert about said receptacle mouth end; c) filling said insert cup with a first food product; and d) filling said receptacle through said receptacle mouth end with a second food product.

16. The method of claim 15, further comprising the step of sealing said receptacle and said insert after step d) with a single removable seal.

17. The method in claim 15 wherein said first food product at step d) comprises a crispy snack product and wherein said second food product at step c) comprises a non-crispy condiment.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Technical Field

The present invention relates to a container suitable for storing multiple food products (consumables) by using a container having an insert nested within a receptacle.

2. Description of Related Art

The design and construction of packaging for containers of consumables, such as potato chips, tortilla chips, or other snack products, requires the consideration of several sometimes competing factors.

One factor to consider regarding a consumables container design is application specific design criteria. For example, and related to marketing considerations, it may be desirable to construct the container so that it can separately hold two or more complementary food products. Mixing separate, complementary food products just prior to consumption is often popular with consumers. For example, it may be desirable for a container to hold both a crispy food such as a tortilla chips, crackers, or potato chips and a non-crispy condiment such as a salsa, cheese, or onion dip.

Food ingredients are typically enclosed in a hermetically sealed food package and thus approach equilibrium with the relative humidity of the inside of the package. Because of this moisture migration it can be difficult to achieve a long shelf life on multiple compartment packages storing snack products sharing the same headspace. For example, the crispy food ingredient (e.g. tortilla chip) having a lower moisture content can absorb evaporated moisture from a non-crispy food ingredient (e.g., salsa or cheese) having a higher moisture content. As the lower moisture content food ingredient absorbs water it becomes less crispy. As the higher moisture content food ingredient loses water, it hardens. Additionally, oxygen and moisture migration into a container reduces the product's shelf life. Thus, any container for holding separate food products should contain a moisture and oxygen barrier layer encompassing each food product compartment.

A second factor to consider regarding a consumables container design is the ease in which a consumer can access product. For example, the container can be designed with an easy-open top, a dimension or shape that makes it easy to grip the container in one hand, and an opening sufficient in size for the consumer to retrieve the product from the container by pulling out the product with the other hand. Likewise, the ergonomics of the container must be considered. The container can be designed to be easily grasped and held in one hand.

A third factor in consumables container design is the economics and efficiencies of filling and shipping the container. It may be beneficial to have the ability to separately stack food product compartments for easy shipment and handling prior to the filling of the compartment with a food product. Further, once filled, sealed, and assembled, the containers must fit economically into boxes or crates in order to minimize shipping costs.

Unfortunately, the prior art fails to disclose a container having all of the above advantages. For example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,277,920, 5,853,105, and 5,657,574 all disclose multi-compartment food packages where the containers are adjacent and integrated with one another. Unfortunately, because the compartments do share a common bottom and because the compartments are typically held together with a thin flexible flange, a consumer must attempt to balance the container in the palm of one hand while using the other hand to mix then eat the packaged food products. However, it is very difficult to balance or hold integral, adjacent, multi-compartment food packages that fail to share a common bottom. Thus, it is often difficult for a consumer to hold any of the disclosed integral containers in one hand while using the other hand to mix a first food product with a second product and then consume the two food products.

In addition, it is difficult to use the disclosed prior art containers to package a second food product at a location remote from where the final filling, sealing, and labeling of an integral multi-compartment food package occurs.

Consequently, a need exists for a multi-compartment food container that allows a consumer to easily eat multiple food products within the container with one hand while holding the container with the other hand. Further, the container should be rigid enough to allow a consumer to hold both food products in one hand so the other hand can be used to mix and then consume the food product combination. Such design should be simple and inexpensive to manufacture and be intuitively functional to the consumer. The container should economically fit into boxes or crates in order to minimize shipping costs.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The proposed invention comprises a food product container for storing multiple food products having a nested insert cup in a receptacle. In one embodiment, the first food product can be placed into the receptacle, the insert cup can be nested in the receptacle, and a second food product can be placed into the insert cup. Both food products can then have a single removable seal placed over the receptacle and insert.

The invention is simple and inexpensive to manufacture, provides adequate protection for the product contained therein, and is easy to use for the consumer. The container permits a consumer to easily eat multiple food products within the container with one hand while holding the container with the other hand. The container is an improvement over the prior art in the packaging efficiencies, and functional use by the consumer. The above as well as additional features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent in the following written detailed description.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The novel features believed characteristic of the invention are set forth in the appended claims. The invention itself, however, as well as a preferred mode of use, further objectives and advantages thereof, will be best understood by reference to the following detailed description of illustrative embodiments when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1a is a top perspective view illustrating the receptacle without the insert and without the seal;

FIG. 1b is a partial top plan view of the receptacle depicted in FIG. 1a;

FIG. 1c is a cross-sectional side view of the portion of the receptacle taken along line 1c-1c of FIG. 1b;

FIG. 2a is a top perspective view of the insert in one embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2b is a bottom perspective view of the insert depicted in FIG. 2a;

FIG. 3a is a perspective view of the insert shown in FIGS. 2a-2b prior to nesting with the receptacle shown in FIG. 1a;

FIG. 3b is a perspective view of the receptacle with the nested insert in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3c is a top plan view of the container shown in FIG. 3b;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the container depicted in FIG. 3b having a single heat sealed lid covering both the container and nested dip insert.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIG. 1a is a top perspective view illustrating the receptacle without the insert and without the seal. Referring to FIG. 1a, the receptacle 100 comprises a receptacle mouth end 102 and a receptacle base 104 coupled with a receptacle wall 106. In one embodiment, the receptacle 100 comprises a recessed base 104. In one embodiment, the receptacle 100 comprises a tapered receptacle wall 106. The receptacle 100 provides for the rigidity of the container as well as necessary moisture barrier properties. The receptacle 100 can also be opaque in order to preclude exposure to light on the product contained therein. The receptacle 100 is typically injection molded and can be constructed of materials comprising polypropylene, which provides for effective moisture barrier properties. Such material can provide a container having a water vapor transmission rate of about 0.004 g/m2/day and an oxygen transmission rate of 7.2 cubic centimeters/m2/day. Examples of other suitable material for use in constructing the receptacle include high density polyethylene. In one embodiment, the receptacle 100 and insert 200 are made of microwaveable materials.

FIG. 1b is a partial top plan view of the receptacle depicted in FIG. 1a. FIG. 1c is a cross-sectional side view of a portion of the receptacle taken along line 1c-1c of FIG. 1b. Referring to FIGS. 1b and 1c, the receptacle mouth end 102 comprises a flange 108. In one embodiment, the flange 108 is integral the receptacle wall 106 about the receptacle mouth end 102. The flange 108, in one embodiment, comprises a flat section 112, a protruded section 114, and a ledge section 110. The ledge section 110 extends about the outer perimeter of the flange 108. The protruded section 114 protrudes slightly inward in the vicinity of the rounded corners of the container. The amount of protrusion has been exaggerated in the drawing for purposes of illustration. In one embodiment, the protruded section 114 extends beyond the receptacle wall 106 by about 0.50 millimeters. In one embodiment, the flange 108 does not have a protruded section 114 in the non-rounded portion 116 of the container.

FIG. 2a is a top perspective view of the insert 200 in one embodiment of the invention. FIG. 2b is a bottom perspective view of the insert depicted in FIG. 2a. Referring to FIGS. 2a and 2b, the insert 200 comprises an insert cup 201 and a rim 210. The insert cup 201 further comprises an insert mouth end 202 and an insert base 204 connected by an insert wall 206. In one embodiment, the rim 210 is an L-shaped rim 210 that extends beyond the insert cup 201 to form a pass-through opening 220. In one embodiment, the rim 210 is integral with the insert mouth end 202. In an alternative embodiment, the rim 210 is snap-fit on the insert cup 201.

FIG. 3a is a perspective view of the insert shown in FIGS. 2a and 2b prior to nesting with the receptacle shown in FIG. 1a. FIG. 3b is a perspective view of the receptacle with the nested insert in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 3c is a top plan view of the container shown in FIG. 3b. Referring to FIGS. 3a, 3b, and 3c, in one embodiment, the L-shaped rim 210 having a perpendicular section 212 is dimensioned so as to mate above the flange flat section 112 of the receptacle 100 and substantially abut the first receptacle ledge 110 to enable the insert 200 to be nested within the receptacle 100. Hence the rim 210 is dimensioned so as to mate with and nest inside the receptacle 100. In one embodiment, the protruded section 114 snaps into a channel 214 (shown in FIG. 2b) disposed about the four corners within the perpendicular section 212 of the L-shaped rim 210. In one embodiment, the channels 214 are dimensioned to ensure a tight fit with the protruded section 114. The pass-through opening 220 permits a consumer to conveniently retrieve food from the receptacle 100.

In an alternative embodiment (not shown), a different snap fitting means is used couple the insert 200 with the receptacle 100. There are numerous ways to snap fit a smaller nested insert into a larger receptacle as those skilled in the art are aware. For example, in one embodiment, the flange 108 having a groove capable of receiving a lip can be placed about the mouth end 102 of the receptacle 100. A lip can then be placed about the insert rim 210 so as to mate with the groove to enable the insert 200 to be snap fit with the receptacle 100. Similarly, the groove can be placed on the insert rim 210 and the lip can be placed about the flange 108. The disclosed methods are shown by way of illustration and not limitation. Any method of snap fitting or placing the insert 200 into the receptacle 100 in a nested fashion known in the art can be used.

The first step in manufacturing the container of Applicants' invention involves constructing the receptacle 100 and insert 200. Construction of each is typically performed by injection molding of the material selected, but could also be accomplished by blow molding, thermoforming, or other means used in container manufacturing. Manufacture of the receptacle 100 and insert 200 are performed separately. After each receptacle 100 is removed from the mold, the receptacles can be efficiently nested and stored in one another and then shipped to a food processing facility where it can be filled with product or consumables. Alternatively, the receptacle, shortly after manufacture, can be filled with a first food product, such as corn-based snack foods, dropped into the receptacle 100 through the mouth end 102.

In one embodiment, after each insert 200 is removed from the mold, the inserts can be nested in one another for storage or shipment separate from the receptacle 100. In an alternative embodiment, inserts 200 can be immediately nested into a receptacle 100 that has been filled with a first food product and a second food product including, but not limited to, a non-crispy condiment such as spreadable cheese, salsa, or bean dip, can then be dropped into the insert 200 through the insert mouth end 202.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the container depicted in FIG. 3b having a single removable seal covering both the container and the nested dip insert. After the insert 200 is nested in the receptacle 100 and filled with a second food product, a removable seal (shown as reference 410 in FIG. 4) is secured over both the receptacle mouth end 110 as well as the insert mouth end 210 by methods well known in the industry. Such seals can be found, for example, on the top of some plastic ketchup bottles. This removable seal can be, for example, a metalized polyester secured by a heat and pressure seal or other means. In one embodiment, once the removable seal is placed over each mouth end 110 210, a label can be affixed about the receptacle and the container can be shipped to consumers. It should be noted, however, that a label can be affixed about the receptacle at any time after the receptacle is manufactured.

The instant invention provides numerous other advantages as well. First, it provides for a multi-compartment food package that allows a consumer to easily eat the food products within the container with one hand while holding the container with the other hand. For example, referring to FIG. 3b, because of the nested insert 200, the consumer can easily hold both the insert 200 and the receptacle 100 in one hand. The consumer can then, with the other hand, reach through the pass-through section 220 into the mouth end of the receptacle, and retrieve a first food product such as a tortilla chip. The consumer can then place the first food product into the mouth end of the insert and mix the first food product with a second food product, such as salsa. Moreover, if the second food product in the insert requires the application of some pressure to retrieve, the consumer can still apply the requisite pressure without additional difficulty in holding the container. For example, if spreadable cheese is placed in the nested insert, application of pressure first downward and then toward an insert side wall may be required to scoop the cheese onto a cracker. The instant invention permits a consumer to more easily perform this task than previously because the container can be gripped in one's first hand and pressure can be applied in numerous directions within the insert (e.g. scooping can occur with one's second hand) while still having the ability to easily hold the container with the first hand. Second, the shape of the receptacle can be fashioned such that it is ergonomic and easy to hold. Third, the manufacture of the container can be performed by inexpensive molding methods consisting of injection molding, blow molding and thermoforming. Fourth, in one embodiment, the container requires only a single heat-sealed lid that covers both food products making it easier to manufacture a multi-compartment food container. Further, the container lid can be easily removed by one hand as the other hand holds the container. Moreover, the container shape provides for easy stacking in boxes for shipping and on shelves for display to a consumer.

While the invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to a preferred embodiment, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes in form and detail may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.