US 20040074802 A1
This substantially rigid product packaging shell which defines a volume (3) for the at least partial housing of the product (7), having an opening that is closed using a flexible cover (6), is characterised in that the shell is produced in at least two parts (1 a, 1 b), which parts can be easily separated, at least partially, and which can come apart on the non-cover (6) side by pivoting in the area (2) next to the shell opening (4).
1. A substantially rigid product packaging shell defining a volume (3) for the at least partial housing of the product (7), having an opening (4) that is closed using a flexible cover (6) arranged on an annular marginal area (2) of the shell, the shell (1) being produced in at least two parts (1 a, 1 b) joined by an easy-to-open zone (8), which parts can be easily separated, at least partially, and which can come apart on the non-cover (6) side by pivoting in the area (2) next to the shell opening (4), characterized in that the shell is essentially hemispherical and the zone (8) is an equatorial zone.
2. The shell as claimed in
 The invention relates to a substantially rigid product packaging shell, defining a volume for the at least partial housing of the product, and closed by a cover.
 Such shells are known for cheese packaging, for example from documents EP 0952093, FR 2 773 137 and FR 2 786 471. In these shells the cover is substantially rigid and can be detached from the shell to allow access to the product. In other known packagings, the cover is a flexible film that can be detached from the shell. In both cases, access to the product in the shell is not always satisfactory, especially if, for example, the product has a tendency to stick to the shell walls: after the cover is removed, the product still has to be removed from the shell. In the case of a food product, its removal is not necessarily very hygienic or may make the fingers dirty. Document U.S. Pat. No. 3,521,805 shows a packaging shell closed by a film, the shape of which has the effect that, when folding it with the fingers, part of the shell in the shape of a neck is broken, allowing the product, which is necessarily in fluid form (powder, liquid or paste) to be dispensed. Documents DE 7607897U, U.S. Pat. No. 4,266,667 and U.S. Pat. No. 3,075,639 show more or less jointed blister-type packagings designed to contain non-food products such as pencils or sterile needles, but unsuitable for the problem of food products such as cheese where finger contact is undesirable.
 The object of the invention is to provide a packaging of the kind defined above that will allow easy access to the product contained in the shell, without having to touch said product, particularly for a solid product such as cheese.
 The invention achieves its object by means of a substantially rigid product packaging shell defining a volume for the at least partial housing of the product, having an opening that is closed using a flexible cover arranged on an annular marginal area of the shell, the shell being produced in at least two parts joined by an easy-to-open zone, which parts can be easily separated, at least partially, and which can come apart on the non-cover side by pivoting in the area next to the shell opening, characterized in that the shell is essentially hemispherical and the zone is an equatorial zone. In this way the user accesses the product not by opening the cover (although the latter may have been used in filling the product into the shell) but by separating the shell into its two or more hinged parts and opening it, thus revealing the product, housed in the shell and still resting partly on the cover. As the cover is flexible (at least locally in the hinge axis), it offers no resistance to the pivoting of the two parts of the shell.
 Advantageously, the easy-to-open zone is a breakable, for example thin, zone, or an open zone covered by a peel-off tape.
 The invention applies preferably to the packaging of food products, such as cheese or salt meat or salt fish in individual portions that can easily be eaten without getting oneself sticky.
 Other features and advantages of the invention will be found on reading the following description, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 is a schematic cross section through a shell in accordance with the invention before it is filled and closed,
FIG. 2 is a schematic cross section through the same shell after filling and closing with a film,
FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the shell as presented to the consumer,
FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the same shell as the opening tab begins to be peeled off, and
FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the same shell with the half-shells pivoted open.
 The basically hemispherical shell 1 comprises a flat annular border 2 and is produced for example in transparent plastic material. The shell forms a housing 3, designed to be closed at its circular opening 4. By a known technique, the product is introduced (arrow 5) through the opening into the upside-down shell 1 and a film 6, such as a metal-plastic complex, is laid over the border 2 so as to be sealed to it and thus hermetically close the shell 1 with its product 7.
 The shell 1 comprises an open central equatorial zone 8 dividing the shell into two symmetrical half-shells 1 a, 1 b joined together by the border (2). The zone 8 is covered externally with an opening tape 9, of which at least one end 10 forms a tab that can be grasped by hand. The tape 9 projects on both sides (or on only one side) beyond the open zone 8 in order to be fixed to each of the two half-shells 1 a, 1 b. The tape 8 can be applied during the molding of the shell, by the known techniques of affixing labels in molds. When in place, it seals the zone 8 and so enables the product 7 to be introduced.
 To gain access to the product, the consumer grips the tab 10 and pulls it, thus removing the tape 9 and exposing the open zone 8.
 The two shells are now attached only by the border 2 and the flexible film 6. The consumer can then, with one hand if he wishes, hinge the two half-shells 1 a, 1 b approximately about the diameter 11 where the plane of the equatorial zone 8 intersects with the border 2, revealing the product 7, the base of which is resting on the film 6. The two half-shells hinge easily because the film is flexible and does not impede the movement, and the border 2, although more rigid, is relatively narrow. Moreover, if required, it is possible to provide a line of weakness, such as a reduced thickness, in the border 2 along the diameter 11. It is also possible to substitute for an entirely flexible film a cover that is rigid but comprises a hinge along the diameter 11 to permit articulation.
 Instead of a tape 9 that peels off completely, a tape incorporating an opening thread which tears it and allows the two half-shells to be separated may be used. It is also possible to use any other system that allows this separation of the shells, such as a weakened equatorial zone that tears easily, or an equatorial zone formed between two lines of weakness and itself forming an integral tearable tab.