Title:
Detachable food package
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A food tray system comprises a single plastic sheet that forms a row of width-spaced and elongated trays (12, 14, 16) that each has a cavity (30) and a flange (32) at the top. Each flange is joined to the flange of an adjacent tray by a tear line (36). A front portion (52) of each tray is tapered in width and the cavity has a front wall (24) inclined to the vertical by at least 8° to facilitate a person pouring the contents into his/her mouth. A lidding film (50) that covers each cavity, has a film part that overhangs the inclined front end of the tray flange to form a tab (64) that can be grasped. A notch (80, 82) leading to each end of a tear line, has a notch inner end (80i, 82i) extending in the width direction (W).



Inventors:
Vovan, Terry (Upland, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/584208
Publication Date:
03/18/2010
Filing Date:
09/02/2009
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D21/02
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
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20070289974CRYOGENIC INSULATION SYSTEMS WITH NANOPOROUS COMPONENTSDecember, 2007Blair et al.
20090288745INSERTABLE PERSONAL STORAGE DEVICENovember, 2009Costello
20080023478Receptacle lid assembly and associated methodJanuary, 2008Cahill
20060201951Handheld paint and application tool containerSeptember, 2006Cingel
20070257040Packaging for perishable goodsNovember, 2007Price Jr. et al.
20070131686Flotation device coupled to a lid of a storage containerJune, 2007Weast
20060060587Umbrella holderMarch, 2006Shukrie
20050199626Liquid storage tank having hatch cover for an internal floating roof manwaySeptember, 2005Gilbert et al.



Primary Examiner:
CASTELLANO, STEPHEN J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BAKER BOTTS L.L.P. (NEW YORK, NY, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A food tray system comprising: a single plastic sheet that forms a single row of rigid and elongated trays (12, 14, 16) spaced along a horizontal width direction (W), each tray having primarily vertical tray side walls (20, 22) and end walls (24, 26), and a tray bottom wall (28) that together form a cavity (30) for holding food, and each tray having a flange (32) extending outward from the tray side walls, with pairs of adjacent trays forming a tear line (36) between flanges at their sides, with each tear line formed by a weakening of said sheet of plastic along the tear line; each tray having a width (K) along said width direction and having a length (M) along a horizontal length direction that is perpendicular to said width direction, with each tray length being a plurality of times as great as its width, whereby to provide a row of elongated trays.

2. The system described in claim 1 wherein: each of said flanges has front and rear end portions (52, 53) spaced apart along said length direction, with said flange front portion being tapered in width so its extreme front end has a width (V) that is no more than one-half the tray width (K) as it exists along a majority of the tray length.

3. The system described in claim 1 wherein: the cavity at each tray front end has a lateral width (X) that is no more than half of the width (J) of said cavity along a majority of the cavity length, and said tray front end wall (24) is inclined from the vertical by at least 10°.

4. The system described in claim 1 including: a plurality of lidding films each covering the cavity of one of said trays and attached to the flange of the corresponding tray; each tray having a front portion of a length (S) of at least one centimeter along which the cavity and flange are tapered to have a progressively smaller lateral width at progressively more forward locations therealong to leave a cutout (70); each lidding film extends over said cutout by a distance of at least 5 millimeters to form a tab (64) that can be grasped without grasping said flange.

5. The system described in claim 1 wherein: the flanges of adjacent trays which are joined by tear lines, have notches (80, 82) at their opposite ends with each notch leading to an end of a tear line; each tear line comprising a plurality of through slots (40) spaced by connections (42), with each slot having a predetermined slot width (Q); each of said notches has an inner notch end (80i, 82i) extending perpendicular to the tear line along a distance (T) equal to at least twice said slot width.

6. The system described in claim 1 including: a second single sheet of plastic that forms a single row of covers (104) spaced along said width direction with said covers having primarily vertical side walls and a top and having a flange (120) extending outward from a bottom of said side walls, with pairs of adjacent covers forming a tear line (122) between their flanges with each tear line formed by a weakening of said sheet along the tear line, each cover of a row being latchable to a tray of its row to form a row of closed containers.

7. The system described in claim 6 wherein: said flanges (32, 120) of the tray and cover of each container being positioned to lie facewise adjacent to each other when the container is closed.

8. The system described in claim 6 wherein: each of said trays and each of said covers is of primarily triangular shape, each tray and each cover having a narrow end, and having a wide end that is at least twice as wide along said width direction as said narrow end, with pairs of trays and pairs of covers each having adjacent wide and narrow ends.

9. The system described in claim 8 wherein: said plurality of trays and covers each forms a row with opposite ends, said row comprising an even number of trays or rows so opposite ends of each row are parallel.

10. The system described in claim 1 wherein: said plastic sheet comprises a layer of fibers and polymer film pressed into said layer of fibers; said tear line is formed of perforations in said plastic sheet with each perforation formed by punching out areas of said sheet that are spaced apart along the tear line.

11. The system described in claim 10 wherein: said perforations each has a width (Q) of no more than one millimeter and said perforations are spaced apart by a distance of no more than one millimeter.

12. A food tray system comprising: a single plastic sheet that forms a row of rigid and elongated trays (12, 14, 16) spaced apart along a horizontal width direction (W), each tray having primarily vertical tray opposite side walls (20, 22), a tray front wall (24), a tray rear wall (26), and a tray bottom wall (28), that together form a cavity (30) for holding food, each tray having a tray top and having a flange (50) extending outward from the tray top with flanges of adjacent trays of the row joined along a tear line (36) where said sheet is weakened and can be torn; a tray front portion (52) of each tray being tapered in width along a region forward of the corresponding tear line to have a smaller width at a front end of said region than at a rear end of said region, to facilitate pouring of food out through said front end.

13. The system described in claim 12 wherein: said tray opposite side walls diverge in an upward direction, with each of said side wall inclined by an angle (D) of about 5° from the vertical, and said tray front end has a primarily vertical end wall that extends at an upward and frontward angle (D) of at least 10° from the vertical.

14. A food tray system comprising: a single plastic sheet that forms a row of rigid trays (12, 14, 16) spaced along a width direction (W), each tray having tray side and end walls (20, 22, 24, 26) and a tray bottom wall (28) that together form a cavity (30) for holding food, and each tray having a flange (32) extending outward from said side walls with a pair of adjacent tray forming a tear line (36) between their flanges, each tear line having front and rear ends and having slots (40) of a predetermined average width (Q); at a first of said tear line ends, the flanges of a pair of adjacent trays form a notch (80, 82) with a notch inner surface (80i, 82i) that extends within 7° of said width direction along a distance (T) of at least twice said tear line width, whereby to avoid the creation of a sharp hook at an end of a tray flange.

15. The system described in claim 14 wherein: said plastic sheet comprises a layer of fiber material laminated with a polymer film; each of said tear lines is formed by spaced perforations in said plastic sheet that each extends along a tear line.

16. A food tray system comprising: plastic sheeting that forms a plurality of rigid trays spaced along a width direction, each tray having tray side and end walls and a tray bottom that together form a cavity for holding food, and each tray having a flange extending outward from a top of said side and end walls with a pair of adjacent trays forming a tear line between their flanges, each tear line having front and rear ends separated along a length direction; a lidding film that lies on and adheres to the flange of each of said trays to close the top of the corresponding cavity but each lidding film being peelable off the flange; each flange having a front end portion with an inclined flange side (55) that extends at an incline angle (E) of between 15° and 60° to said tray length direction to leave a cutout (70), where a non-inclined flange edge would lie, and the lidding film on each tray extends over said cutout to form a tab (64) that can be grasped.

17. The food tray system described in claim 16 wherein: said lidding film has opposite sides that are each spaced inward from a corresponding tear line, except at the tab of the lidding film.

18. A food tray system comprising: a single plastic sheet that forms a tray that has primarily vertical tray opposite side walls and end walls and that has a tray bottom wall, said walls together forming a cavity for holding food, said tray having a tray top and having a flange extending outward from the tray top; said tray opposite side walls extending at a small incline (D) of about 5° to the vertical, and said tray front having a cavity front end wall that extends at a front-ward and upward incline angle (C) from the vertical that is at least twice said small angle.

19. The system described in claim 18 wherein: said plastic sheet forms a plurality of tray devices that are each identical to said tray and that are spaced apart in a width direction and have top flanges, with said flanges joined by tear lines each comprising elongated through slots and connecting locations of said flanges that lie between said through slots.

20. The system described in claim 18 wherein: said plastic sheet forms a plurality of tray devices that are identical to said tray and that are spaced in a width direction from said tray, with flanges of said tray and an adjacent one of said tray devices joined to each other by a tear line in said sheet of plastic along which the flanges of the tray and tray device can be separated; said tray and tray devices being arranged in a single row, with each tray and an adjacent tray device having front and rear ends that form notches where there is a space between each tray and an adjacent tray device.

21. The system described in claim 20 wherein: each of said tear lines comprises alternating through slots (40) and connections (42), and each tear line has front and rear ends and each tray and an adjacent tray device form a notch (80, 82) in the flange at said tray and tray device front and rear ends, each notch having an outer end furthest from an end of the corresponding tear line and having an inner end (80i, 82i) where the notch merges with an end of the tear line; each notch inner end extends within 7° of said width direction along a distance (T) of at least twice the width (Q) of said tear line through slots, whereby to avoid the creation of a sharply pointed hook when the tear line is torn.

22. A food tray system with pie-shaped trays comprising: a single plastic sheet that forms a row of rigid trays (102) spaced along a horizontal width direction (W) with each tray having front and rear ends that are spaced along a horizontal length direction (L), each tray having primarily vertical tray side walls (112) and a tray bottom wall (114) that together form a cavity (110) for holding food, and each tray having a flange (120) extending outward from a tray side wall with pairs of adjacent trays forming a tear line (122) between their flanges with the tear line formed by a weakening of said sheet of plastic along the tear line; said trays are each of a pie shape which includes opposite side walls that each converge in a first direction toward a narrow tray end (140) and diverge in an opposite second direction toward a wide tray end (142); said trays being arranged with alternate trays having their wide tray ends (142) at a front end of the row and with trays lying between said alternate trays having their narrow tray ends (140) at said front end of the row.

23. The system described in claim 22 including: a plastic sheet that forms a row of covers (104) spaced along said width direction (W) with each cover having side walls forming a cavity and with each cover having an outward extending flange, with pairs of adjacent covers forming a tear line between their flanges; said covers are each of a pie shape with narrow and wide cover ends and arranged with alternate covers having narrow ends lying between the wide end of a cover between them, said covers each being mountable on one of said trays, each tray having at least one held-down flange (130) and each cover having at least one lift up flange (132, 134).

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE

Applicant claims priority from U.S. provisional application Ser. No. 61/192,168 filed Sep. 16, 2008 and U.S. provisional patent application Ser. No. 61/196,194 filed Oct. 15, 2008.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Food containers can be constructed by deforming a sheet of plastic to produce a container having side, end and bottom walls that form a food-holding cavity, with a flange around the top of the side and end walls. A lidding film attached to the flange, covers the cavity. Snack foods can be eaten by tipping the container so the food, such as blueberries, pours out of an end of the container into a child's or grown-up's mouth. Each container can be of small volume, with the food, such as fifteen ounces of blueberries, stored in a plurality of containers so that perhaps five ounces can be consumed at a time. A food tray system of low cost, that held quantities of food for consumption as by pouring the contents of one of a plurality of containers at a time into a person's mouth, would be of value.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with one embodiment of the invention, a food tray system is provided which includes trays for each holding a small quantity of food that can be easily consumed, especially by children, as by the child pouring the food directly into his/her mouth. The system can include a plurality of lengthwise elongated trays arranged in a laterally-extending row, and formed by a single plastic sheet, with the trays having flanges that are joined by tear lines. A front end of each cavity is tapered in width and has an end wall extending at an incline of at least 8° from the vertical to facilitate pouring out of the food. The row of trays has a notch at each end of each tear line, with the notch having a laterally extending inner end at the corresponding end of the tear line, to avoid leaving a sharp hook when the tear line in torn.

The novel features of the invention are set forth with particularity in the appended claims. The invention will be best understood from the following description when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a top isometric view of a food tray system of the invention, with a lidding film shown in phantom lines.

FIG. 2 is a plan view of the food tray system of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is an end elevation view of the food tray system of FIG. 1

FIG. 4 is a side elevation view of the food tray system of FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is an enlarged view of area A-A of FIG. 1.

FIG. 6 is an enlarged view of area B-B of FIG. 1.

FIG. 7 is a partial plan view of a notch of a prior design showing its disadvantage.

FIG. 8 is an isometric view similar to FIG. 1 but with one tray detached from the two others of the row, and showing lidding films with the pull tab of one of them bent up for peeling.

FIG. 9 is an exploded isometric view of a system with pie-shaped trays and covers.

FIG. 10 is an isometric view of containers of FIG. 9 formed by joining the trays and covers.

FIG. 11 is a plan view of the containers of FIG. 10.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

FIGS. 1 and 2 show a food tray system 10 that includes three trays 11 including two end trays 12, 14 and a center tray 16 that are spaced along a horizontal lateral direction, which also can be referred to as a row or width direction W. Each tray is elongated in a perpendicular horizontal length direction L that extends in front F and rear R directions. The trays are substantially identical to each other, with each tray having tray opposite side walls 20, 22, tray front and rear end walls 24, 26, and a tray bottom wall 28 that form a cavity 30 between them for holding food. Each tray has a flange 32 extending outward, which is a direction generally away from the tray axis 34. A tray vertical center plane 38 extends through the axis. The flange of each tray is joined to the flange of an adjacent tray by a tear line 36 along which the plastic sheet is weakened as by perforations, although it can be weakened by scoring. Each tear line includes multiple through slots 40 that are elongated along the tear line, with the slots being spaced apart by connections 42 in the sheet plastic. The three trays illustrated are formed of a single sheet of transparent plastic such as a 0.03 inch thick sheet of plastic which is thermoformed. The combination of plastic and fibers can be used where transparency is not required, and such combination is hereby referred to as “plastic”. The trays are rigid, as compared to flexible bags, and are preferably formed in a single row.

The food tray system is especially useful for holding snacks, as where all trays hold a pourable food comprising multiple bits of food, such as blueberries or a liquid. Another example is where one tray holds a food such as elongated strips of apple, a second tray holds elongated strips of carrot, and a third tray holds yogurt into which the strips of apple or carrot can be dipped. A considerable quantity of food such as a pound of blueberries, may be loaded into the three containers, and a person may consume one tray (one-third pound) at a time. To do this, the person first tears one of the end trays away from the center tray along a tear line 36. The person then peels off a lidding film 50 from the tray flange. The person then may lift a front end 24 of the tray to his/her mouth and tip up the tray rear end 26 to pour some of its contents into the person's mouth.

To facilitate pouring out the tray contents, a front end portion 52 of the tray (which is opposite a rear end 53) is tapered in width W to have a progressively narrower width at more forward locations. Also, the front end wall 24 is angled at a forward and upward incline from the vertical by the angle C shown in FIG. 4. Applicant notes that the opposite side walls 20, 22 of the tray are inclined by at a mold angle D (FIG. 3) of about 5° (2° to 8°) from the vertical to facilitate tray withdrawal from a forming mold. However the front end wall incline angle C is more than the mold angle D and is preferably more than 10° (twice as much), with the actual incline angle C shown being 12° to facilitate pouring out the contents without tipping the tray so much that food spills out at the sides. The front portions of the flange and cavity have opposite sides that are each tapered in width at an angle E (FIG. 2) of about 37° (15° to 60°) from a center plane 38 so as to be progressively narrower at more forward locations. The tray extreme front end has a flange width V that is no more than half the width K along a majority of the tray length. The cavity front end width X is no more than half or 40% of the average cavity width J. All of this facilitates pouring food directly into the eater's mouth. The tray cavity 30 has a length H that is a plurality of times its width J so the cavity holds considerable food even though its width is small.

Trays of the illustrated design that applicant has constructed, had a width K (FIG. 2) at the flange of 45 millimeters between flange tear lines, a length M at the flange of 145 millimeters between opposite ends of the flange, and a tray height N (FIG. 3) of 39 millimeters. Each tear line had slots of a width of 0.8 mm and length of 3.5 mm, and with each connection 42 having a length of 0.5 mm. There are thirty-four slots 40 along each tear line. Applicant prefers to provide at least ten slots along each tear line, to provide for a smooth tearing of each tear line. The bottom 60 of each tray had a width P of 22 millimeters. There is a possibility of an individual tray tipping to one side and spilling its contents, but an individual tray is usually used soon after it is torn free of the other trays. When the row of trays is intact, the row of trays has a largely “square” footprint, with an overall tray row width of 135 millimeters and length of 145 millimeters. Applicant prefers to use enough trays in the row so that the row width is between one-half and two times the tray length, to provide a largely “square” footprint.

As mentioned above applicant provides a separate lidding film 50 (FIGS. 1 and 2), such as of flexible plastic or metal foil, for each tray, each film having less than one-tenth the thickness of the tray sheet material. The lidding films are shown in phantom lines to avoid blocking the rest of the figures. Each lidding film extends on the flange around the entire cavity. The lidding film can extend slightly (e.g. one millimeter) beyond the front and rear ends of the flange, but should not extend in the width direction over a tear line 36 because such film would interfere with tearing apart two trays. To avoid this applicant lays the film so its edge lie at least 0.1 mm inward of the edge of the flange (except at the tab 64). FIG. 8 shows the three-tray system 10A wherein one tray 14 has been torn free of the other two trays 16, 12. Each lidding film has a tab portion 64 that extends laterally beyond a cutaway 70 in the tray flange front portion 52. The overhanging tab portion 64 can be easily grasped to peel off the lidding film. The overhanging tab portion 64 does not interfere with tearing apart two trays. It can be seen from the torn tear line 36T on tray 12, that the trays of FIG. 8 were manufactured with a large number of trays in a row, and the trays were separated into three-tray systems.

FIG. 1 shows that the tear line 36 between each pair of adjacent trays has front and rear ends 72, 74, and that there is a notch 80,82 at each end. The front notch 80 extends along the horizontally tapered front portion of the flange which has a length S (FIG. 2) of 17 millimeters, and the rear notch 82 extends along a minimum length such as 3 millimeters. The notch is tapered along the tray front end portion length S. The length S is less than one fourth the tray length M, so as to not greatly reduce the tray holding capacity. As shown in FIGS. 5 and 6, the inner end (80i, 82i) of each notch, which is the rear end of the front notch 80 and the front end of the rear notch 82, have notch end surfaces 80i, 82i that extend in the lateral or width direction W along a distance of at least one millimeter. If the tear line 36 should be formed so it is unintentionally offset from the intended tear line location, then such offset will not result in a hook that can hurt a person or catch on clothing. In FIG. 7, applicant shows a notch 90 with a rounded inner end and with a tear line end 92 that is offset from the correct position along midline 96. This would result in an end of the tear line forming a hook 94 that could injure people or clothing. Applicant prefers to provide a notch inner end that extends in the width direction W (or within 7° of the width direction) by a distance T (FIG. 6) that is at least twice, preferably three times, and more preferably at least five times the slot width Q.

FIGS. 9-11 show a food container system 100 that includes a row of four trays 102A, 102B, 102C, and 102D, and a row of four covers 104A, 104B, 104C, and 104D. As shown in FIG. 10, the trays 102 and covers 104 together form four containers 106. Each tray has a shallow cavity 110 (FIG. 9) with primarily vertical walls 112 and a bottom wall 114. Each cover has a tall cavity 116 formed by primarily vertical cover walls 117 and a cover top 118. Each cover has an outward flange 124 at its bottom, that is joined to the flange of an adjacent cover by a tear line 126. Each tray has a flange 120 that is joined to a flange of another tray by a tear line 122. A lidding film is not necessary. Each tray has a tray tab 130 projecting from the middle of its flange, and each cover has a pair of cover tabs 132, 134. Each tray also has projecting latches 136 that engage corresponding latches 138 on the covers to hold them closed.

A closed container 106 is separated from an adjacent container by tearing the tray and cover of one container loose from the tray and cover of an adjacent container, which can be done while the containers remains closed. This allows a clerk to load food (e.g. slices of cake) onto a row of trays, close a row of covers over the row of trays, and ship and store the row of loaded containers. The flanges 120, 124 of the trays and covers of each container lie facewise adjacent (within 5 mm and preferably within 1 mm of each other), which facilitates tearing the two tear lines to separate two containers.

The trays and covers each has a pie shape, with a narrow end 140 (FIG. 11) and an opposite wide end 142 whose width is usually at least twice the width 144 of the narrow end. The containers are especially useful for holding pie-shaped food such as slices of cake or pie cut into a triangular shape. The container system is preferably provided with an even number of containers so the sides 150, 152 at opposite ends of the row are parallel. This allows the row to fill a rectangular box. The length 154 of each container is more than its width 144 and is more than twice its average width. The covers may be formed of transparent plastic while the trays are formed of plastic and fibers (which applicant refers to as “plastic sheet” because it comprises plastic especially at its opposite surfaces).

The row of trays 102 of FIG. 9 is formed of a composite plastic sheet comprising a layer of fibers (e.g. of rice, wheat or sugar cane plants) and a polymer film pressed under heat against the fiber layer. Such composites have been used for a few years. The polymer film can be translucent and/or of a selected color. If an attempt is made to produce a tear line by scoring the plastic sheet (making a cut that extends only partway through the sheet), then the cut is likely to pass only partly or not at all through the fibers. Such a cut will not weaken the entire thickness of the sheet and it will be difficult to tear along such a tear line. Instead, application forms perforations (complete removal of small areas of the sheet that extend completely through the thickness of the sheet) that are spaced along a tear line. The perforations are of the size and shape shown in FIG. 6, where the connections 42 between perforations have a length of less than one mm and line between perforations 40 of a width Q of less than one mm, with a lead-in notch at each end of the tear line.

Thus, the invention provides a food tray system that includes at least one tray and preferably a plurality of trays, or tray devices, that are each narrow and long. A row of trays can hold a considerable amount of food when such amount is divided among them, and with the trays preferably shaped to enable food to be easily poured out from the front end of the tray. The front portion of the tray is tapered in width and the front end wall of the tray is angled upward and forward to facilitate pouring. A lidding film is provided for each tray, with each lidding film projecting from the tray flange only above a cutout formed by the tapered front portion of the tray to provide a tab that can be grasped. A notch is formed in each pair of adjacent trays at each end of the tear line. Each notch has a notch inner end that extends in the width direction by at least twice and preferably three times the width of the slots of the tear line, to avoid the generation of a sharp hook. The invention also provides a row of containers formed by trays and covers that can be snapped onto the trays to close them, that are each of triangular shape.

Although particular embodiments of the invention have been described and illustrated herein, it is recognized that modifications and variations may readily occur to those skilled in the art, and consequently, it is intended that the claims be interpreted to cover such modifications and equivalents.