Title:
PACKAGE FOR PERISHABLE GOODS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention generally pertains to a biodegradable package for packaging perishable goods such as fruits and vegetables. More specifically, the present invention relates to a package comprising a container for receiving the food product therein, a porous membrane for closing the container while allowing gas to circulate inside and outside the container and a perforated lid for protecting the porous membrane and allowing stockpiling on numerous packages onto one another.



Inventors:
Sauvageau, Luc (Repentigny, CA)
Application Number:
12/403890
Publication Date:
10/29/2009
Filing Date:
03/13/2009
Assignee:
TOMAPURE INC. (Laval, CA)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
220/662, 53/467
International Classes:
B65D25/14; B65B1/04; B65D25/54
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
VOLZ, ELIZABETH J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FASKEN MARTINEAU DUMOULIN, LLP (MONTREAL, QC, CA)
Claims:
1. A package adapted for packaging a perishable good, said package comprising: a container defining a chamber adapted for receiving therein said perishable good; a porous membrane secured to said container for closing said chamber while allowing a gas circulation between said chamber and an environment surrounding said package; protection means mounted to said container over said porous membrane for protecting said porous membrane against unwanted breakage thereof, said protection means comprising at least one vent hole for enabling said gas circulation.

2. The package of claim 1, wherein said protection means comprises a lid.

3. The package of claim 1, wherein at least one of said container, said porous membrane and said protection means is manufactured using a biodegradable material.

4. The package of claim 3, wherein said biodegradable material comprises a transparent biodegradable material.

5. The package of claim 4, wherein said biodegradable material comprises Polyactic Acid (PLA).

6. The package of claim 5, wherein said package has a circular shape.

7. The package of claim 1, wherein said perishable good is selected from a group consisting of a food product, a non-comestible organic matter, a non-comestible organism and an animal.

8. The package of claim 7, wherein said food product comprises tomatoes.

9. The package of claim 1, further comprising a label for marketing said perishable good.

10. The package of claim 9, wherein said label comprises a biodegradable label.

11. The package of claim 1, wherein said porous membrane comprises a plurality of microperforations.

12. The package of claim 11, wherein said microperforations are adapted for enabling said gas circulation while preventing the passage of a liquid.

13. The package of claim 12, wherein each of said microperforations has a diameter ranging from about 10 micrometers to about 1 millimeter.

14. The Package of claim 13, wherein each of said microperforations has a diameter ranging from about 20 micrometers to about 40 micrometers.

15. The package of claim 14, wherein said plurality of microperforations have a density ranging from about 0.25 microperforation per square inch to about 2000 microperforations per square inch.

16. The package of claim 15, wherein said plurality of microperforations have a density ranging from about 2.4 microperforations per square inch to about 3.7 microperforations per square inch.

17. A kit for a package adapted for packaging a perishable good, said kit comprising: a container defining a chamber adapted for receiving therein said perishable good; a porous membrane securable to said container for closing said chamber while allowing a gas circulation between said chamber and an environment surrounding said package; protection means mountable to said container over said porous membrane for protecting said porous membrane against unwanted breakage thereof, said protection means comprising at least one vent hole for enabling said gas circulation.

18. A method for packaging a perishable good, the method comprising: providing a container defining a chamber adapted for receiving therein said perishable good; packing said perishable good in said chamber of said container; securing a porous membrane to said container for closing said chamber of said container, said porous membrane being adapted for allowing a gas circulation between said chamber and an environment surrounding said package; mounting a protection means to said container over said porous membrane, said protection means being adapted for protecting said porous membrane against unwanted breakage thereof and comprising at least one vent hole for enabling said gas circulation.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein said securing of said porous membrane to said container comprises thermally treating said container and said porous membrane for causing adhesion of said porous membrane to said container.

20. The method of claim 18, wherein said securing of said porous membrane to said container comprises gluing said porous membrane to said container.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application relates to U.S. provisional application No. 61/047,292 that was filed on Apr. 23, 2008, the specification of which application is hereby incorporated by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention generally relates to a package adapted for packaging a perishable good. More specifically, the present invention relates to a package comprising a container defining a chamber for receiving the perishable good therein, a porous membrane and a perforated lid for allowing a gas circulation between the chamber and the environment surrounding the package.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Packages for packaging products come in a wide range of types, shapes and materials, ranging from the plastic bag to the square cardboard box to the metal can. Each package is adapted for a particular product and to fulfill particular needs such as, for instance, protection from compression, shocks, temperature, oxygen or microbial contaminants, for ensuring safety of the packaged product or user cross-contamination or for providing individual or predetermined portions or quantities of products.

With the globalization of the markets, import and export of perishable goods such as food products have increased over the past years. The transport and handling of such food products from the producers to the grocery stores and/or their marketing to consumers requires special packaging, especially where the food is fragile such as, for instance, with fruits and vegetables, and especially with tomatoes.

Currently, most of the imported fruits and vegetables are sold as bulk products in groceries. They are packed and transported in substantially large boxes, and unpacked by the grocery's clerk upon arrival for the consumer to purchase the individual items. However, inappropriate handling thereof by consumers may compromise the aesthetic aspect of the fruits and vegetables, especially when they are fragile by nature, in addition to increasing the risk of cross-contamination (i.e. contamination by a consumer handling a product later transmitted to another consumer buying the product).

Further, with freshly prepared fruit or vegetable products, such as fruit salad or macedoine, some liquid may render impossible or impractical bulk sale.

Therefore, some have come with containers or package for packaging fruits and vegetable products. Typically, the packages found in grocery stores consist of plastic containers closable with a plastic lid. In some instances, the package is provided with apertures or space for ensuring circulation therein and for gas produced by the packaged product to escape. Such instances include tomatoes, which are known to produce ethylene, a gas known to enhance rooting thereof and to reduce preservation time. In such case however, the apertures or openings make the package impractical to package products that may include liquids.

Most of the time, the containers found in grocery stores are made of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE) a thermoplastic polymer resin of the polyester family. While very easy and economical to manufacture, PETE and other classical plastic materials represent a threat for the environment.

Therefore, it would be desirable to be provided with a package for food product that is entirely biodegradable and that allows alleviating at least one of the drawbacks associated with the prior art packages.

BRIEF SUMMARY

In order to address the above and other drawbacks, and in accordance with the present invention, there is disclosed a package adapted for packaging a perishable good.

According to one embodiment of the present invention, the package comprises a container defining a chamber adapted for receiving therein the perishable good; a porous membrane secured to the container for closing the chamber while allowing a gas circulation between the chamber and an environment surrounding the package; and protection means mounted to the container over the porous membrane for protecting the porous membrane against unwanted breakage thereof, the protection means comprising at least one vent hole for enabling the gas circulation.

According to another embodiment of the present invention, there is provided a kit for a package adapted for packaging a perishable good. The kit for the package comprises: a container defining a chamber adapted for receiving therein the perishable good; a porous membrane securable to the container for closing the chamber while allowing a gas circulation between the chamber and an environment surrounding the package; and protection means mountable to the container over the porous membrane for protecting the porous membrane against unwanted breakage thereof, the protection means comprising at least one vent hole for enabling the gas circulation.

According to one aspect, the protection means comprises a lid.

According to another aspect, at least one of the container, the porous membrane and the protection means is manufactured using a biodegradable material. Preferably, the container, the porous membrane and the protection means are manufactured using the biodegradable material.

According to a further aspect, the biodegradable material comprises a transparent biodegradable material and is preferably Polyactic Acid (PLA).

According to yet a further aspect, the package has a circular shape.

According to an additional aspect, the perishable good is selected from the group consisting of a food product, a non-comestible organic matter, a non-comestible organism and an animal.

The food product is preferably selected from a group consisting of fruits and vegetables, and more preferably the fruits comprise tomatoes, and even more preferably grape tomatoes.

The non-comestible organic matter comprises fresh flowers. The non-comestible organism comprises a plant.

The animal is a small-living animal, wherein the small-living animal is selected from the groups consisting of a fish, a worm and an insect.

According to another aspect, the package and the kit further comprise a label for marketing the perishable good, where the label preferably comprises a biodegradable label.

According to yet another aspect, the porous membrane comprises a plurality of microperforations. The microperforations are preferably adapted for enabling the gas circulation while preventing the passage of a liquid, and more preferably each microperforation has a diameter ranging from about 10 micrometers to about 1 millimeter, and even more preferably a diameter ranging from about 20 micrometers to about 40 micrometers.

According to a further aspect, plurality of microperforations have a density ranging from about 0.25 microperforation per square inch to about 2000 microperforations per square inch, and preferably from about from about 2.4 microperforations per square inch to about 3.7 microperforations per square inch.

According to another embodiment, there is provided a method for packaging a perishable good. The method comprises: providing a container defining a chamber adapted for receiving therein the perishable good; packing the perishable good in the chamber of the container; securing a porous membrane to the container for closing the chamber of the container, the porous membrane being adapted for allowing a gas circulation between the chamber and an environment surrounding the package; and mounting a protection means to the container over the porous membrane, the protection means being adapted for protecting the porous membrane against unwanted breakage thereof and comprising at least one vent hole for enabling the gas circulation.

According to one aspect, securing the porous membrane to the container comprises thermally treating the container and the porous membrane for causing adhesion of the porous membrane to the container.

According to another aspect, securing the porous membrane to the container comprises gluing the porous membrane to the container.

These and other objects, advantages and features of the present invention will become more apparent to those skilled in the art upon reading the details of the invention more fully set forth below.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Having thus generally described the nature of the invention, reference will now be made to the accompanying drawings, showing by way of illustration an illustrative embodiment thereof, and in which:

FIG. 1 is a side elevation view of a package in accordance with one embodiment of the invention, with a lid closing the container;

FIG. 2 is an exploded view of the package shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a top side perspective view of a container and a porous membrane in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, with the porous membrane partially detached from the container;

FIG. 4 is a side elevation view of the container shown in FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is a top plan view of the container shown in FIG. 3, with the porous membrane removed;

FIG. 6 is a top side perspective view of a lid of one embodiment of a container;

FIG. 7 is a side elevation view of the lid shown in FIG. 6;

FIG. 8 is a top plan view of the lid shown in FIG. 6;

FIG. 9 is a top side perspective view of a lid of another embodiment of a container; and

FIG. 10 is a flow chart of a method for packaging a perishable good in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The description which follows, and the embodiments described therein are provided by way of illustration of an example, or examples of particular embodiments of principles and aspects of the present invention. These examples are provided for the purpose of explanation and not of limitation, of those principles of the invention. In the description that follows, like parts are marked throughout the specification and the drawings with the same respective reference numerals.

With reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, a package in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention will be described using the reference numeral 20. The package comprises a container 22, a porous membrane 24 fixable to the container 22 for closing the same and a lid 26 for covering the porous membrane 24 and protecting the same.

Now referring to FIGS. 3 to 5, the container 22 will be described in accordance with one embodiment. In this embodiment, the container 22 is rounded and has the general structure of a bowl and comprises a cylindrical base portion 28 and a main circular wall 30 extending upwardly from the base portion 28 to define a chamber 29 for receiving a perishable good therein.

The base portion 28 is provided with a circular, flat bottom face 32 for laying the container 22 on a surface such as a table, a shelf or a display. The base portion 28 is further provided with a base wall 34 extending upwardly along the circular edge of the bottom face 32. The base wall 34 has a bottom edge 36 adjacent to the circular edge of the bottom face 32 and an upper edge 38. As it will become apparent to the skilled addressee, the thickness of the base portion 28 (i.e. the distance separating the bottom and top edges 36 and 38 thereof) is adapted for the base portion 28 to engage the lid 26 of another container 22, thereby allowing piling similar containers one onto another, which is of great advantage as will note the skilled addressee.

The main wall 30 has a bottom edge 40 connected to the top edge 38 of the base portion 28 and a top end 42. As best shown in FIG. 4, the top end 42 of the main wall 30 defines a semi-circular lip 44 extending outwardly from the container 22 (i.e. away from the center of the container 22). The lip 44 is sized and shaped for engaging the lid 26 by snapping or frictional engagement, as it will become apparent below.

Still referring to FIG. 4, the main wall 30 defines generally semi-parabolic curve between the bottom edge 40 thereof and the top end 42. As such, the upper diameter D1 of the container 22 at the top end 42 is greater that than the lower diameter D2 of the container 22 at the level of the bottom edge 40 to thereby define a tapering or funnel-like structure.

A person skilled in the art will appreciate that many other container configurations would be possible. For instance, a container could be provided with a generally square or rectangular shape rather than being rounded. The person skilled in the art will further appreciate that the shape of the lid 26 and of the porous membrane 24 would be adapted to such a shape.

In one embodiment, the base portion 28 and the main wall 30 define a unique or integral structure. In this embodiment, the container 22 is made from a moldable, biodegradable polymer. In one embodiment, the biodegradable polymer is a relatively transparent, such as, for instance, Polyactic Acid (PLA). The person skilled in the art will appreciate that transparency of this material provides the advantage of enabling the consumers to visualize the packed product. Further, Polyactic Acid can be biodegraded within a reasonable period of time, depending on whether it is composted or disposed of in a landfill.

In one embodiment, the container 22 is manufactured by injection molding using an appropriately designed mold. Other methods of manufacture may also be used to produce the container 22. A person skilled in the art will appreciate that any suitable material, whether biodegradable or not, may be used to manufacture the container 22.

Applicable on the semi-circular lip 44 of the container 22 is the porous membrane 24 (shown in FIGS. 2 and 3). The porous membrane 24 is preferably a flexible film made from a biodegradable material such as Polyactic Acid and comprises a generally circular portion 46. In one embodiment, the porous membrane further comprises a tab 48 extending from the circular portion 46. As it will become apparent below, the tab 48 is adapted for facilitating removal of the porous membrane 24 from the container 22 for the consumer to access the perishable good packed therein. The diameter D3 of the circular portion 46 generally corresponds to the diameter D1 of the upper end 42 of the container 22 for enabling the porous membrane 24 to be bounded to the container 22 for closing the same, as it will become apparent below.

In one embodiment, the porous membrane or film 24 is provided with a plurality of microperforations 50 (shown in enlarged view for clarity purposes). In this embodiment, the size of the microperforations 50 (i.e. the diameter thereof) and the density of such micro-perforations (i.e. the number of micro-perforation per square inch) are adapted for enabling gas exchange between the chamber 29 of the container 22 and the environment surrounding the package 20 when the porous membrane 24 is closing the chamber 29 of the container 22. In other words, the microperforations 50 are adapted for enabling “breathing” of the package content. For instance, ripening tomatoes are known to produce ethylene at low rate, which may induce or enhance further ripening and prematurely reduce the freshness or shelf-life of the product if not properly vented from the container.

In one embodiment, the diameter of the microperforations 50 is adapted for enabling the passage of gas while preventing the passage of a liquid. In this embodiment, each microperforation 50 has a diameter ranging from about 10 micrometers to about 1 millimeter and the density of such microperforations on the film ranges between about 0.04 microperforations per square centimeter and 310 microperforations per square centimeter (i.e. between about 0.25 microperforations per square inch and 2000 microperforations per square inch). In one embodiment, the porous membrane 24 has a diameter of 13 centimeters (5.1 inches) and comprises between about 50 to about 75 microperforations (i.e. a density of about 0.4 and 0.6 microperforations per square centimeter), each microperforation having a diameter ranging between about 20 micrometers and about 40 micrometers.

The porous membrane 24 may be produced by submitting a strip of non-perforated film to perforation steps such as those known the art, including needles, pins, laser, high pressure air, open flame or high pressure water jet microperforation, and further cutting the strip into multiples porous membranes using a die or a punch.

Now referring to FIGS. 6 to 8, the lid 26 will be described. The lid 26 defines a plate-like structure and comprises a top portion 52 and a lower cylindrical portion 54 for removably engaging the container 22, as best described below. The top portion 52 comprises a circular top face 56 defining an annular, generally flat portion 58 and a curved portion 60 extending radially and downwardly from the annular portion 58 to define a bottom, circular edge 62. As best shown in FIG. 7, the cross-section of the curved portion 60 has a quadrant of a circle shape. The top portion 56 further comprises a circular recess 64 concentrically defined on the flat portion 58. The diameter D4 and the depth of the recess 64 are adapted for receiving therein the base portion 28 of one container 22. This configuration enables piling multiple containers 22 onto one another and provides stability against lateral movement thereof.

Further, the circular recess provides a circular space for receiving a label (not shown) for marketing the product. In one embodiment, the label is a self-adhesive, circular label having a diameter slightly smaller than the diameter D4 and is adapted to be fixed to the circular top face 56, in the recess 64. In one further embodiment, the label is entirely made from biodegradable material, such as, for instance, biodegradable paper or support and biodegradable ink. A person skilled in the art will appreciate that such a biodegradable label does not necessarily needs to be placed in the recess 64 and that multiple label positions are possible on the package 20.

Provided on the flat portion 58 is a plurality of vent holes 66. Together with the microperforations 50, the vent holes 66 enable the circulation of gas inside and outside the package 20 (i.e. between the chamber 29 and the environment surrounding the package 20) when the porous membrane 24 and the lid 26 are positioned on the container 22. A person skilled in the art will appreciate that the vent holes 66 may be positioned at other locations on the lid 26.

Extending radially and downwardly from the bottom edge 62 of the curved portion 60 is the cylindrical portion 54 of the lid 26. The cylindrical portion 54 comprises a top annular wall 68 having an inner edge 70 adjacent to the bottom edge 62 of the curved portion 60 and an outer edge 72. Extending downwardly from the outer edge 72, perpendicular to the annular wall 68, is a curved wall 74. In one embodiment, the diameter D5 of the curved wall 74 is sized slightly smaller than the outer diameter D1 of semi-circular lip 44 of the container 22. This configuration enables snap engagement of the lid 26 on the container 22. The cylindrical portion 54 is further provided with a tab 76 extending radially from the curved wall 74 for facilitating removal of the lid 26 from the container 22 by a consumer.

In one embodiment, the lid 26 is made from a moldable, biodegradable thermoplastic, such as, for instance, Polyactic Acid. Similarly to the container 22, the lid 26 can be manufactured by injection molding using an appropriately design mold, or by any other suitable process.

A person skilled in the art will appreciate that the lid 26 provides protection against unwanted fissuring or breakage of the porous membrane 24, which may be attributable to piling of packages 20 one onto another for storage, transport of display or improper manipulation of the package 20 by customers. Accordingly, the term “lid” must be understood broadly as including any protection means that would prevent unwanted fissuring or breakage of the porous membrane 24. A skilled addressee will thus appreciate that lids may have different configurations. For instance, a lid in accordance with another embodiment is shown in FIG. 9 is shown using reference numeral 100.

In this embodiment, the lid 100 comprises a circular top face 102 and a lower cylindrical portion 104 for removably engaging the container 22, similar to cylindrical portion 54 of lid 26. A plurality of radiuses 106 connects the top face 102 to the cylindrical portion 104, thereby providing a plurality of openings 108 for allowing gas exchange or circulation between the chamber 29 of the container 22 and the environment surrounding the package 20.

While in the above described embodiments the package 20 has a generally circular configuration, a person skilled in the art will appreciate that many other package configurations are possible. For instance, the container 22, the porous membrane 24 and the lids 26 or 100 may have a rectangular shape and the label may be sized and shape to fit such a rectangular shape.

Having described the general elements of the package 20, its use will now be described with reference to FIG. 10. A perishable good producer or a distributor is provided with containers 22, porous membranes 24 and lids 26 (step 202). The perishable good to be packed is preferably washed and sterilized before packaging thereof, preferably using eco-friendly methods (e.g. chlorine- and detergent-free water). The producer or distributor places a specific amount of the perishable good in the container 22 and positions the porous membrane 24 on the semi-circular lip 44 to close the chamber 29 (step 204).

The term “perishable good” should be intended broadly to encompass any food product, such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, meats, candies and the like. The package 20 is particularly suitable for fragile vegetables and fruits such as, for instance, tomatoes. In one embodiment, the container is used for packaging grape tomatoes. A person skilled in the art will appreciate that the biodegradability of the package 20 and its relatively low cost can also make it appealing for packaging traditionally non-comestible organic matters or organisms such as, for instance, fresh flowers and plants. The presence of the porous membrane 24 allowing gas circulation in the chamber 29 may further enables transport of small living animals such as fishes, worms, insects and the like, which may be particularly useful where such small animals are transported towards remote areas (e.g. remote fishing areas) where disposal facilities are rare.

The container 22 and the porous membrane 24 are then subjected to a thermal treatment for causing adhesion of the porous membrane 24 on the container 22 (step 206). As person skilled in the art will appreciate that such a thermal treatment is adapted for sealing or adhering the porous membrane 24 on the container 22 without comprising the integrity or freshness of the packaged food. Alternatively, the porous membrane 24 could be secured on the container 22 using a biodegradable, non-toxic glue, or by cling engagement where the porous membrane 24 material makes it possible.

Once the porous membrane 24 is properly adhered or secured to the container 22, the lid 26 is positioned and snapped on the container 22 to complete the package 20. Subsequent packages 20 are prepared as described above (step 208). The distributor then prepares shipment of the packages 20. To do so, a first package 20 is placed in a carton or a box designed for receiving therein a specific number of packages 20. A second package 20 is then placed on the first package 20, the base portion 28 of the container 22 of the second package engaging the recess 64 defined on the lid 26 of the first package. Subsequent packages 20 are then placed in the carton or box until the same is packed, and the carton is shipped to the grocery store. As it will be appreciated by a person skilled in the art, the presence of the lid 26 covering the porous membrane 24 prevents unwanted breakage thereof and limits lateral movement of the packages 20 relative to one another during transport.

Upon reception, the staff of the grocery store unpacks the carton and places the packages 20 on display shelves. Where space is limited, the grocery employee may pile multiple packages 20 one onto another, as described above.

Due to transparency of the Polyactic Acid, consumers desirous of purchasing the product are capable of visualizing the same. However, the present of the porous membrane 24 properly adhered to the container 22 prevents direct contact of the consumer with the perishable good, thereby reducing cross-contamination. Further, the presence of the lid 26 over the porous membrane 24 contributes to reduce unwanted fissuring or breakage of the porous membrane 24 attributable to improper manipulation of the package by customers.

For consuming the perishable good contained in the package 20, the consumer removes the lid 26 by pulling the tab 76. The consumer then partially or completely removes the porous membrane 24 by gently pulling the tab 48. Once the porous membrane 24 has been removed, the fruits, vegetables or other products contained in the package 20 are accessible for consumption. Where only a portion of the package content has been taken from the container 22 and the consumer is desirous of preserving the remaining portion, the lid 26 may be placed back on the container 22 and snap thereon.

Although the foregoing description and accompanying drawings relate to specific preferred embodiments of the present invention as presently contemplated by the inventor, it will be understood that various changes, modifications and adaptations may be made.