BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to the field of beverage containers, particularly hot beverage serving containers, particularly hot beverage cups, and to insulating holders or sleeves for use with hot beverage serving cups.
2. Background of the Art
The sale of hot beverages, such as coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and specialty drinks has dramatically increased in recent years. Many competing corporations and private business have developed around the service of these beverages. The various distributors of these beverages have established their own business strategies, but all tend to sell auxiliary products in addition to their primary food products (coffee, tea, cocoa, specialty beverages, biscuits, cookies, pastries, candy, bagels, etc.). Such auxiliary products include mugs, tee-shirts, sweat shirts, and the like.
In addition to the auxiliary products (the cups, cup-holders, napkins, bags, and other materials) having prominent advertising on them, the different companies seek to establish a unique ambiance to be associated with the specific company. For example, some provide reading areas, checker board tables, music, couches, fireplaces, and the like to define unique personalities for the business. The business regularly look for both personality products as well as functional products for use in the promotion of the business of selling products.
The sale of hot beverages provides some unique problems. Because the beverage must be served hot to satisfy customer expectations, there is a potential for liability to the customer in the event of burns or other injuries from the hot beverage. The serving container itself (e.g., a cup), or a sleeve for the serving container is therefore insulated, beyond the modest insulation provided by standard paper cups.
Hot beverage containers have traditionally been constructed of two materials: wax-coated paper and polystyrene. Although both products have received wide spread implementation by fast food restaurants and consumers, they each have their own specialized draw-backs which have yet to be overcome. The primary limitation of these cups is that sufficient heat is transmitted through them to at least annoy if not hurt the customer.
Polystyrene is an excellent insulator, and because of its unique moldability, can be formed into a myriad of different shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, however, polystyrene is neither easily recyclable nor biodegradable, and must be disposed in a sanitary landfill. Landfills have become extremely expensive to use and are rapidly being filled to capacity. Polystyrene can also be incinerated, but this disposal method requires a significant amount of environmental safeguards because of the toxic fumes polystyrene emits while burning. Additionally, polystyrene can be easily broken, and a customer gripping a polystyrene cup tightly can break the cup or squeeze liquid from the top of the cup. Customers often grip the top of cups tightly to avoid touching surfaces of the cup adjacent to the liquid, exacerbating this problem.
Wax-covered paper products have been used in beverage containers for years, and have increasingly been replacing polystyrene as the material of choice. This material is generally recyclable, and is more readily degraded by environmental exposure than polystyrene. Unfortunately, because of its low insulation qualities, containers made of this material are very difficult to handle. It has therefore become customary to provide collars or sleeves to be placed around the cup to insulate the cup and prevent heat transfer to the hands of customers.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,205,473 describes a recyclable, insulating beverage container holder, comprising a corrugated tubular member comprising cellulosic material and at least a first opening therein for receiving and retaining a beverage container, said corrugated tubular member comprising fluting means for containing insulating air; said fluting means comprising fluting adhesively attached to a liner with a recyclable adhesive.
U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,053,401; 5,909,841; and 5,715,992 describe a container is disclosed, including an outer shell with an integral handle and two flexible bags within the outer shell. The outer shell has a top, a bottom and sidewalls. The outer shell also defines two openings on opposing walls. Each of the bags within the outer shell defines an aperture sealed to and surrounded by a mouth, which defines a fluid passageway from the interior of the corresponding mouth to the outside of the container. The mouth is sized and shaped such that fluid can be poured through the mouth from a source having an outlet spaced above the mouth. The handle extends outwardly from the top of the outer shell and has sufficient strength to provide essentially all support for the container when the bags are filled with liquid in either of two positions: in the first position, one of the openings is facing upwards; in the second position, each of the openings is facing sideward. Desirably, the mouth and opening are sized and shaped such that, when the opening is facing upwards, the human eye can detect when a level of fluid in the container is approaching the mouth.
In spite of he fact that the sleeves commercially available are sold widely, they still must be disposed of. Even though they are theoretically recyclable, they are usually carries away from the site of sale and deposited in general waste disposal facilities where they are not recycled. In general, the sleeves are also “one size fits all” and the sleeves tend to settle unevenly on cups, slip, and often tear along seal lines. Additionally, the uniform sleeves provide few options in design and choice for the users.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
An insulating material is provided in a strip or sheet form of sufficient length (at least 22 linear cm), including any extenders or closure elements, to enable the sheet to wrap around a common serving cup. The strip or sheet has non-permanent adhesive closure capability to fit the sheet around the serving cup and secure the ends of the strip to each other and thereby secure the sheet to the cup. The sheet may have auxiliary functions such as a pocket to retain currency or change.
The material of the strip may be any flexible sheet forming material. By flexible, it is meant that the material may be conformed about a cylinder of 8 cm diameter without cracking. This flexibility should be repeatable, meaning that the strip should be able to be conformed to the cylinder, removed, straightened out, then conformed again at least five times without cracking sufficiently to structurally damage the sheet. Preferably materials are used that are essentially permanently flexible and will not crack with over a thousand conformations. Examples of such flexible materials for the flexible sheet construction are fabrics (woven, knitted, non-woven or mixtures of these formats), extruded sheets, cast sheets, cut sheet material, and the like. The composition of the fabric flexible sheet material may be fabric composed of fibers, yarns, cables, cording, filaments and the like, for example composed of natural fibers (cotton, wool, silk, hair, collagen, etc.), synthetic polymer fibers (polyester, polyamide, polyolefin, polyvinyl resins, and the like) and other synthetic or composite materials (e.g., ceramic fibers, inorganic fibers, cellulose fibers, and the like). The sheet material does not have to be in fabric form, but may be in manufactured sheet form (which may or may not have fibers associated therewith for strength or decorative effects). For example, leather, artificial leather, extruded sheets, cast sheets and the like may be used. The material may have sufficient natural insulation capability (e.g., leather) that they can be used in their conventional state, or they can be treated (e.g., provided in a foam format) or be laminated to another layer to provide sufficient insulation as to protect the user. In some cases, it may be desirable to provide a multiplayer sleeve so that inexpensive, non-decorative, highly insulating materials may be adjacent the cup and out of view (e.g., papers and foams), and more expensive, less insulating materials (e.g., silk) may be provided on the surface of the sleeve.