Title:
Flip Tray
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A flip tray is provided that includes a transparent, compartmentalized container body and a flexible sealing sheet sealed to partition walls and to the peripheral rim of the compartmentalized container body. Plant material with active respiratory activity such as fruits and vegetables are disposed in the compartments of the transparent container body. Each of the compartments exchanges respiratory gases through the micro-perforated sealing sheet individually in a controlled manner. A tray having a completely flat bottom is secured to the container body so as to underlie the flexible sealing sheet and includes peripheral vent conformations.



Inventors:
Loaiza, Julio (Monterey, CA, US)
Mangino, Tom (Carmel, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/000391
Publication Date:
06/18/2009
Filing Date:
12/12/2007
Assignee:
Mann Packing Co., Inc. (Salinas, CA, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
220/526
International Classes:
B65D81/24; B65D1/36; B65D25/34; B65D25/36; B65D77/20
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
LONG, LUANA ZHANG
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NIXON & VANDERHYE, PC (ARLINGTON, VA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A flip tray comprising: a transparent, compartmentalized container body defining a plurality of compartments each having peripheral walls, and a continuous peripheral rim between and surrounding said compartments; a sealing sheet adhered to the continuous peripheral rim of the container body compartments; and a cover tray having a completely flat bottom, without any ribs or undulations, and peripheral conformations defining at least one vent opening.

2. A flip tray as in claim 1, wherein at least one of the container body and the cover tray includes a groove and the other of the container body and cover tray includes a corresponding protrusion for releasably locking the cover tray and the container body to one another.

3. A flip tray as in claim 2, wherein a groove and corresponding protrusion are provided at each corner of the container body and cover tray.

4. A flip tray as in claim 1, wherein the sealing sheet includes at least one micro-perforation associated with at least two of said discrete container compartments and wherein at least two of said container compartments have a different number of micro-perforations from one another so as to provide differing atmosphere control as between said two compartments.

5. A flip tray as in claim 1, wherein a mechanism is provided for controlling an internal atmosphere of at least one of said compartments.

6. A flip tray as in claim 5, wherein mechanism comprises a plurality of micro-perforations in said sealing sheet and creating an opening to said compartment.

7. A flip tray as in claim 1, wherein the container body has a depth of between about 1 and 4 inches.

8. A flip tray as in claim 1, wherein the container body has a circumference of between about 20 and 100 inches.

9. A flip tray as in claim 1, wherein the continuous peripheral rim has a width of at least about 0.125 inches.

10. A flip tray as in claim 9, wherein the continuous peripheral rim has a width of at least about 0.25 inches.

11. A flip tray as in claim 1, wherein said cover tray is opaque.

12. A method of preparing a flip tray comprising: providing a container body comprised of a transparent polymeric material defining a plurality of individual compartments and a continuous rib between and peripherally of the compartments, placing the container body on a work surface with compartments opening up, placing food stuffs in at least some of the compartments, sealing a sealing sheet to the rim of the container body so that the individual compartments are substantially sealed and the seal is substantially continuous along the rim; providing a cover tray having a completely flat bottom without any ribs or undulations; placing the cover tray over the sealing sheet and securing the cover tray to the container body; and turning the assembled container body and cover tray over so that the cover tray side is down, so that the food stuffs rest on the sealing sheet and the sealing sheet is supported by being adhered to the continuous rim, whereby the flip tray is displayed for sale in a display orientation wherein the food stuffs are viewed through the container body walls.

13. A method as in claim 12, wherein at least one of the container body and the cover tray includes a groove and the other of the container body and cover tray includes a corresponding protrusion and the cover tray is secured to the container body by engaging said groove and protrusion.

14. A method as in claim 13, wherein a groove and corresponding protrusion are provided at each corner of the container body and cover tray.

15. A method as in claim 12, wherein the sealing sheet is micro-perforated so as to have at least one micro-perforation associated with each of at least two of said discrete container compartments and wherein at least two of said container compartments have a different number of micro-perforations from one another so as to provide differing atmosphere control as between said two compartments.

16. A method as in claim 12, further comprising controlling an internal atmosphere of at least one of said compartments.

17. A method as in claim 16, said atmosphere control is provided by micro-perforating said sealing sheet.

18. A method as in claim 17, wherein said sealing sheet is micro-perforated with a laser.

19. A method as in claim 12, wherein the container body has a depth of between about 1 and 4 inches.

20. A method as in claim 12, wherein said cover tray is opaque.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Pre-packaged platters comprised of a container body and a cover tray are well known and offered for consumer purchase after having been pre-filled with fresh fruits and/or vegetables, and often a dipping sauce.

Typical such platters are comprised of a container body for receiving the various fruits and/or vegetables, a transparent polymeric sheet which is sealed to the container body and a cover tray which is placed over the sealing sheet. The cover tray is typically provided to protect the transparent polymeric sheet from disruption or a puncture prior to purchase.

Some prior art platters are offered with an opaque container body and transparent cover tray for viewing the contents of the container body. Other platters are the reverse, having a transparent container body and opaque cover tray so that the prepackaged fruits and vegetables can be more fully visualized. Some platters have both a clear container body and cover tray.

An example prior art platter is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 7,083,818. The illustrated platter is comprised of a container body having compartments defined by removable partitions and the sealing sheet is secured to the peripheral edge of the container body. The container body is transparent and the cover tray is opaque, with the platter intended to be displayed cover tray side down. The transparent sealing sheet of the '818 patent platter includes a so-called atmospheric control member to control passage of oxygen and/or carbon dioxide, for example, into and out of the sealed container body. Because the sealing sheet can bow under the weight of the fruits/vegetables, container partitions and/or dip container, the '818 patent platter includes a plurality of ribs formed in the tray/cover to support the sealing sheet and to ensure that air can circulate to and around the single atmosphere control member.

Another platter intended to be displayed cover tray side down, offered by Foxy Fresh Vegetables, is in some respects similar to that of the '818 patent, but includes compartments integrally formed with the container body. As in the '818 product, a single atmospheric control member is provided, although the atmospheric control member is provided on the container body rather than on the sealing sheet. Furthermore, the compartments of the container body are all connected by channels so as to share a common atmosphere.

Disadvantageously, providing a single atmosphere control member and a common atmosphere for the contained food stuffs, as in the above described products, means that all fruits/vegetables within the container body have their ambient atmosphere controlled by the same atmosphere control member. However, different fruits and vegetables have different respiratory characteristics. Therefore, it would be desirable to isolate the various food stuffs and individually control the ambient atmosphere of the respective food stuffs.

The '818 platter is adapted to provide service of the contained fruits/vegetables by removing the cover tray, removing the sealing sheet, re-placing the cover tray, inverting the platter, and then removing the container body so that the fruits/vegetables and dip are supported for consumption on the cover tray. Because of the plurality of the ribs provided to ensure air circulation to the atmosphere control member, however, disadvantageously, smaller vegetables such as snap peas, carrots, green beans and the like may fall between the ribs and may be difficult for the consumer to retrieve and consume. Moreover, while the cover tray is apparently intended to aesthetically simulate a service platter, ribs are not typically included in a service platter and thus may be considered aesthetically unappealing to the consumer. Therefore, it would be desirable to provide a platter having a cover tray that aesthetically simulates a service platter while still providing desired air circulation.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a flip tray wherein the various fruits and/or vegetables have individual atmospheric control and/or wherein air circulation to the compartments of the container is ensured without requiring the provision of ribs in the cover tray. In this way, the fruits and vegetables may be maintained in more optimum atmospheric conditions to increase their shelf life beyond that available with prior art flip platters. Moreover, because ribs are not required to ensure air circulation, the cover tray can have a completely flat bottom so that the cover tray has an appearance similar to service platters and is therefore aesthetically pleasing to the consumer.

Thus, the invention may be embodied in a flip tray comprising: a transparent, compartmentalized container body defining a plurality of compartments each having peripheral walls, and a continuous peripheral rim between and surrounding said compartments; a sealing sheet adhered to the continuous peripheral rim of the container body compartments; and a cover tray having a completely flat bottom, without any ribs or undulations, and peripheral conformations defining at least one vent opening.

The invention may also be embodied in a method of preparing a flip tray comprising: providing a container body comprised of a transparent polymeric material defining a plurality of individual compartments and a continuous rib between and peripherally of the compartments, placing the container body on a work surface with compartments opening up, placing food stuffs in at least some of the compartments, sealing a sealing sheet to the rim of the container body so that the individual compartments are substantially sealed and the seal is substantially continuous along the rim; providing a cover tray having a completely flat bottom without any ribs or undulations; placing the cover tray over the sealing sheet and securing the cover tray to the container body; and turning the assembled container body and cover tray over so that the cover tray side is down, so that the food stuffs rest on the sealing sheet and the sealing sheet is supported by being adhered to the continuous rim, whereby the flip tray is displayed for sale in a display orientation wherein the food stuffs are viewed through the container body walls.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

These and other objects and advantages of this invention, will be more completely understood and appreciated by careful study of the following more detailed description of the presently preferred exemplary embodiments of the invention taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a first example embodiment of a flip tray embodying the invention;

FIG. 2 is a side elevation of the embodiment of FIG. 2;

FIG. 3 is a top plan view of the embodiment of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a bottom plan view of the embodiment of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is an end view of the embodiment of FIG. 1; and

FIG. 6 is a perspective view from below of the embodiment of FIG. 1;

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 7-7 of FIG. 2, with membrane omitted for ease of illustration;

FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 8-8 of FIG. 2, with membrane omitted for ease of illustration;

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a second example embodiment of a flip tray embodying the invention;

FIG. 10 is a side elevation view of the embodiment of FIG. 9;

FIG. 11 is a top plan view of the embodiment of FIG. 9;

FIG. 12 is a bottom plan view of the embodiment of FIG. 9;

FIG. 13 is a bottom perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 9;

FIG. 14 is an end view of the embodiment of FIG. 9;

FIG. 15 is a schematic illustration of an example of a respiration micro-perforation pattern for the embodiment of FIG. 1; and

FIG. 16 is a schematic illustration of a respiration micro-perforation pattern for the embodiment of FIG. 9.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The invention provides a flip tray that includes a transparent, compartmentalized container body, a sealing sheet sealed peripherally of each of the compartments of the container body to define substantially independent compartments and a cover tray which may be opaque or transparent, but in a presently preferred exampled body is opaque, such as black. Two example embodiments of container bodies are described and illustrated herein, one of which is a so-called 40 oz platter, having a net weight of about 40 oz (FIGS. 1-8); and the other of which is a so-called 18 oz platter, having a net weight of about 18 oz (FIGS. 9-14). It is to be understood, however, that flip trays having volumes greater than, smaller than, or some where between the two example embodiments may be provided. Further, the number and configuration of compartments is not limited to the illustrated example embodiments, although the illustrated example embodiments provide a number and size of compartments that is suitable for packaging a desirable number and variety of food stuffs.

As understood in particular from FIGS. 1, 3, 9 and 11, the container body 12,112 provided according to an example embodiment of the invention provides a plurality of discrete compartments each having respective peripheral walls. In the embodiment of FIG. 1, four corner compartments 14, two side compartments 16 and a central compartment 18, which may accommodate a dip container, are defined by the peripheral walls. In the embodiment of FIG. 9, again four corner compartments 114 are defined, one discrete side compartment 116A and a second side compartment 116B that shares a peripheral wall with the central dip receiving portion.

As a consequence of the upstanding peripheral walls of the compartments, as best illustrated in FIGS. 3, 11, 14 and 15, a peripheral rim surface 20,120 (the underside of which is identified by reference 22 in FIG. 3 and reference 122 in FIG. 11) is defined on the cover tray side of the container body (FIGS. 14,15). In the illustrated example embodiments, the rim surfaces 20,120 are continuous flat surfaces to which a sheet of flexible polymeric material 24,124 can be sealed to create a plurality of sealed compartments corresponding to each of the discrete compartments of the container body 12,112. The sealing sheet 24,124 may be heat sealed to the continuous rim 20,120 or may be sealed with biocompatible glue or by spot welding, for example. It is preferred that the adherence of the sealing sheet to the rim be continuous or substantially continuous, that is, sufficiently continuous to largely isolate the compartments from one another. It is evident that the more continuous the seal provided, the more isolated each of the respective compartments will be from one another, so that their internal atmosphere can be individually controlled. Adherence of the sealing sheet about the various compartments has the further advantage that the sealing sheet is held so that it is predominantly spaced from the cover tray when the assembled tray is disposed cover tray side down. This allows for air circulation in the space between the sealing sheet and the cover tray, as discussed more fully below. Spaced adherence points may be sufficient to support the sealing sheet for air circulation to the atmospheric control provided for the individual compartments, but may not completely isolate the respective compartments from one another and therefore whether adherence is continuous, substantially continuous, or spaced may be determined by the particular contents of the container and/or by the manufacturer.

As noted above, each of the sealed compartments formed by the container body and sealing sheet is preferably individually atmosphere controlled. As such, each compartment is provided with its own atmosphere control. Atmosphere control may be provided through the use of a so-called atmosphere control member or by a controlled size and number of perforations, more specifically micro-perforations, in the sealing sheet or in the container body. Where the atmosphere is controlled by an atmosphere control member, this refers to any member that modifies the rates at which oxygen and carbon dioxide pass into and out of the sealed package. Such atmosphere control members are well known in the art as described for example in U.S. Pat. No. 6,376,032, WO 00/004787 and U.S. Pat. No. 7,083,818, the disclosures of each of which are incorporated herein by this reference.

Alternatively, and more preferably, as noted above, in an example embodiment of the invention, atmosphere control is provided by micro-perforations, most preferably in the sealing sheet that is adhered to the continuous rim of the container body. When performing the modified atmosphere packaging designed to fulfill the required oxygen transmission rate (OTR) of each individual compartment, it is possible to take advantage of the wide range of micro-perforation sizes. Laser micro-perforation sizes for film used with fruits and/or vegetables can go from 75 microns to 250 microns. Also, whatever size of micro-perforation is selected, the number of micro-perforations in the film area corresponding to each individual compartment may slightly vary to accommodate the physiological changes of each vegetable brought up by changes in the growing season. In other words, vegetables are continuing living entities that require adjustment and modification of their surrounding atmosphere to control their respiratory rate and consequently extend their shelf life.

FIGS. 15 and 16 illustrate example micro-perforation patterns. In the illustrated example embodiments the perforations are laser micro-perforations having a diameter of 105 microns. As noted above, however, the micro-perforations may range from about 75 to about 250 microns. In the example embodiment of FIG. 15, for a 40 oz tray of the type illustrated in FIGS. 1-8, a corner compartment 14A for carrots has two perforations 26, in this example spaced one inch apart. The diametrically opposite corner 14B, also provided for carrots in this example, also has two perforations 26, but in this instance spaced 1.5 inches apart. An example corner compartment 14C for tomatoes, such as cherry tomatoes, has three perforations 26 provided at 0.5 inch spacing, whereas the diametrically opposite corner compartment 14D, provided in this example for broccoli, has six perforations 26 with 0.5 inch spacing. Finally, in the side compartments, a celery side compartment 16A in this example embodiment has a single perforation 26 whereas a snap pea compartment 16B has six perforations 26, again at 0.5 inch spacing.

In the alternative example of FIG. 16, for a 18 oz flip tray of the type illustrated in FIGS. 9-14, the corner compartments 114A,B for carrots each include a single perforation 126, a corner compartment 114C for tomatoes has two perforations 126 spaced 1 inch apart and the other corner container 114D, for broccoli, includes three perforations 126 at a 0.5 inch perforation spacing. A snap pea side compartment 116A has three perforations, again at 0.5 inch spacing. Finally, a side compartment 116B for celery has a single perforation 126. From these illustrated examples, it can be seen that the number of micro-perforations is related to the type vegetable as well as the size of the respective compartment, so that in general, twice as many respiration perforations are required for the larger tray of FIG. 1, which is approximately twice the size of the tray of FIG. 9, but even for vegetables requiring less ventilation, such as celery, at least one micro-perforation is provided.

Although example spacings for the micro-perforations in the film area over each atmosphere controlled compartment have been described above, those spacings can be varied depending on the number of micro-perforations and optimal distribution judged by the packaging designer without departing from this invention.

As will be understood from the foregoing and the illustrations, the container body is preferably formed by molding, for example thermo-forming a suitable polymeric material, such as polyethylene, so that the compartment bases, peripheral walls and continuous rim are parts of a unitary body. Although in the illustrated example embodiments the container body is generally rectangular, it is to be understood that the container body may be of any convenient shape, for example, rectangular, square, or round. The depth of the container body can be for example about 1 to 4 inches, more specifically, about 1.25 to 2.5 inches. The circumference can be, for example, about 20 to 100 inches or more specifically about 25 to 70 inches. The peripheral rim to which the sealing sheet is adhered preferably has a width of at least about 0.125 inches, more preferably on the order of about 0.19 inches ( 3/16 inches) to 0.4 inches, and most preferably about 0.25 inches. The container body is preferably shaped so that a plurality of container bodies can be stacked and nested together with little or no space between them for economic storage before filling with food stuffs.

The cover tray 30,130 is constructed so that the consumer can pick up the cover tray with the sealed container on it and so that the cover tray 30,130 protects the sealing sheet 24,124 during handling of the flip tray 10,110. In an example embodiment, the cover tray 30,130 is made by thermo-forming or otherwise molding a suitable polymeric material, such as polyethylene. As illustrated, the cover tray has a completely flat bottom 40,140, without any ribs or undulations, for having the appearance of a service platter and so as to be free of crevices which may capture food stuffs.

About the periphery of the cover tray are peripheral conformations defining a peripheral lip or lift 44,144 and vents 42,142. More specifically, a lift 44,144 is defined peripherally of the tray for engaging the peripheral rim 20,120 of the container body 12,112 when the cover tray is attached to the container body. At spaced locations about the cover tray 30,130 the vents extend through the lift 44,144. In the present embodiments, the vents allow for the passage of air to the area between the cover tray 30,130 and the sealing 24,124 sheet. In this regard, as mentioned above, the sealing sheet (not illustrated in FIGS. 7-8) is adhered to the peripheral rim 20,120 about the various compartments. As a consequence, when the tray is disposed cover tray side down, the sealing sheet is effectively held up off the flat bottom 40,140 of the cover tray so as to define a space between the sealing sheet and the cover tray. Consequently air can pass through the vents 42,142 from ambient atmosphere to the space between the sealing sheet and cover tray and to the atmosphere control provided for the respective compartments of the tray, and vice versa.

Referring again to the configuration of the cover tray, at the four corners of the cover tray locking grooves 46,146 are provided for receiving complimentary protections of the container body 12,112 to detachably secure the container body and cover tray together. It is to be understood that as an alternative, the cover tray may define projections projecting radially inwardly to engage respective grooves in the container body.

The food products that may be provided in the container body in example embodiments of the invention may be of any kind but the invention is particularly adapted for receiving respirating food stuffs such as fresh vegetables or fresh fruits. In the alternative, however, other food products such as meats, cheeses, nuts, pretzels, and/or other snack foods may be provided in the respective compartments. In such a case, it is preferable that the individual compartments be sealed without any atmosphere control.

As will be understood from the product description above, to fill and display a package according to an example embodiment of the invention, a container body comprised of a transparent polymeric material defining a plurality of individual compartments and a continuous rib between and peripherally of the compartments is provided. The container is placed on a work surface with compartments opening up and food stuffs or other materials are placed in at least some of the compartments. A sealing sheet is sealed to the rim of the container body so that the individual compartments are substantially sealed and the seal is substantially continuous along the rim. Then, a cover tray having a completely flat bottom without any ribs or undulations is placed over the sealing sheet and secured to the container body. The assembled container body and cover tray is then flipped so that the cover tray side is down, with the food stuffs resting on the sealing sheet, and the sealing sheet is supported by the adherence to the continuous rim, whereby the flip tray can be displayed for sale in a display orientation wherein the food stuffs are viewed through the container body walls.

While the invention has been described in connection with what is presently considered to be the most practical and preferred embodiment, it is to be understood that the invention is not to be limited to the disclosed embodiment, but on the contrary, is intended to cover various modifications and equivalent arrangements included within the spirit and scope of the appended claims.