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Publication numberUS20060121161 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/005,536
Publication dateJun 8, 2006
Filing dateDec 6, 2004
Priority dateDec 6, 2004
Publication number005536, 11005536, US 2006/0121161 A1, US 2006/121161 A1, US 20060121161 A1, US 20060121161A1, US 2006121161 A1, US 2006121161A1, US-A1-20060121161, US-A1-2006121161, US2006/0121161A1, US2006/121161A1, US20060121161 A1, US20060121161A1, US2006121161 A1, US2006121161A1
InventorsEdward Garrett
Original AssigneeIowa Turkey Growers Cooperative, Llc
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Pre-packaged food tray kit and method of use
US 20060121161 A1
Abstract
A party tray kit comprises a variety of ready-to-eat foods of sufficient quantity for a plurality of individuals that are sealed within a serving tray and ready to serve. The party tray kit also includes a carrier. The carrier includes a compartment for the serving tray and a compartment for a variety of condiments and relishes in ready-to-use packets. The party tray kit can be kept under refrigeration for a considerable period of time. In use, the party try kit is removed from refrigerated storage, the serving tray is removed from the kit and a releasable lidding film is removed from the serving tray. In one exemplary embodiment, the party tray kit may include a selection of cold-cuts and cheeses. When this embodiment is used, the serving tray may be presented to a gathering of individuals who can consume the various food items and condiments as desired.
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Claims(40)
1. A ready-to-serve party tray kit, comprising:
a carrier, the carrier including at least a first compartment, and a top;
a serving tray placed within the first compartment of the carrier, the serving tray containing at least a first compartment and a second compartment, the first and second compartments of the serving tray containing a plurality of food items, wherein the plurality of food items is of sufficient quantity to feed multiple individuals; and
a releasable lidding film adhered to the serving tray so as to hermetically seal the plurality of food items from the outside environment.
2. The party tray kit of claim 1, wherein the carrier further includes a second compartment, wherein the second compartment contains at least one condiment, garnish and/or other food item placed within the second compartment of the carrier.
3. The party tray kit of claim 1, wherein the kit is loaded and packaged under sanitary conditions at a food processing facility.
4. The party tray kit of claim 1, wherein the top of the carrier has a first section and a second section.
5. The party tray kit of claim 4, wherein the first section at least partially defines the first compartment, and the second section at least partially defines the second compartment.
6. The party tray kit of claim 5, wherein:
the first section has a window, and
the window provides a view of the contents of at least a portion of the serving tray.
7. The party tray kit of claim 1, wherein at least one type of food item is placed within the first compartment, and at least one other type of food item is placed in the second compartment.
8. The party tray kit of claim 7, wherein at least one food item-comprises cold-cuts.
9. The party tray kit of claim 1, wherein the first compartment includes at least one or more auxiliary receptacles.
10. The party tray kit of claim 9, wherein each of the one or more auxiliary receptacles are available to contain at least one of a garnish, a condiment or another food item.
11. The party tray kit of claim 1, wherein the serving tray is back flushed with at least one gas before application of the releasable lidding film.
12. The party tray kit of claim 11, wherein at least one of at least nitrogen, carbon dioxide, or other preservative gas is back-flushed into the serving tray before application of the releasable sealing film.
13. The party tray kit of claim 2, wherein at least one of the at least one condiment, garnish and/or other food item placed within the second compartment is provided in a ready-to-use package.
14. The party tray kit of claim 1, wherein the serving tray is made of at least a semi-rigid material.
15. The party tray kit of claim 14, wherein the serving tray is formed of an oxygen-barrier polymer.
16. A party tray kit, comprising:
an outer carrier, the outer carrier having a bottom, four sides and a top piece, wherein the carrier is divided into a first compartment and a second compartment;
a serving tray placed in the first compartment of the carrier, the serving tray having a bottom, outer walls and at least one inner wall, the walls defining at least a first compartment and a second compartment, wherein a plurality of at least one ready-to-eat food item is placed within the first compartment of the serving tray and a plurality of at least one other ready-to-eat food item is placed within the second compartment of the serving tray and wherein the plurality of food items in the first and second compartments is of sufficient quantity to feed multiple individuals;
at least one condiment, garnish and/or other food item is contained in the second compartment of the carrier, wherein at least one of the at least condiments garnish and/or other food item is contained within a sealed package.
17. The party tray kit of claim 16, wherein the kit is loaded and packaged under sanitary conditions at a food processing facility.
18. The party tray kit of claim 16, wherein the top piece comprises a first section and a second section, the first section at least partially defining the first compartment of the carrier and the second section at least partially defining the second compartment of the carrier.
19. The party tray kit of claim 18, wherein a window is defined in the first section of the top piece, the window providing a view of at least a portion of the contents of the serving tray.
20. The party tray kit of claim 16, wherein at least one of the at least one inner wall of the serving tray is co-extensive with the outer walls of the serving tray.
21. The party tray kit of claim 20, wherein a lidding film is releasably sealed to the outer walls and the at least one inner wall of the serving tray.
22. The party tray kit of claim 20, wherein the bottom of the serving tray is differentially raised.
23. The party tray kit of claim 22, wherein at least a portion of the bottom of the serving tray is differentially raised, the raised portions of the bottom defining a sloped bottom of at least one of the first and/or second compartments of the serving tray.
24. The party tray kit of claim 23, further comprising at least one auxiliary receptacle located in at least one compartment of the serving tray.
25. The party tray kit of claim 23, wherein the bottom of the first compartment is differentially raised to form a sloping annular surface having a receptacle.
26. The party tray kit of claim 16, wherein the first compartment of the serving tray includes at least one receptacle.
27. The party tray kit of claim 16, wherein the first compartment contains at least one type of ready-to-eat meat product.
28. The party tray kit of claim 27, wherein at least one type of ready-to-eat meat product comprises cold-cuts.
29. The party tray kit of claim 16, wherein the second compartment contains cheese.
30. The party tray kit of claim 16, wherein the bottom of the second compartment of the serving tray is differentially raised.
31. A method of assembling a party tray kit comprising:
providing a serving tray, the serving tray having a first compartment and a second compartment;
placing in the serving tray a quantity of at least one type of ready-to-eat food item that is of sufficient quantity for multiple individuals;
sealing the serving tray with a releasable lidding film so as to hermetically seal the food items from the outside environment;
providing a carrier, the carrier having, at least a first compartment and a second compartment;
placing the serving tray in the first compartment of the carrier; and
placing at least one condiment, garnish or other food item in the second compartment.
32. The method of claim 31, wherein placing the quantity of at least one type of food item in the serving tray comprises placing the food items in the serving tray under sanitary conditions in a food processing facility.
33. The method of claim 31, wherein the second compartment of the serving tray contains at least one type of food item.
34. The method of claim 31, wherein at least one food item contained in the second compartment of the serving tray is at least one variety of cheese.
35. The method of claim 31, wherein the party tray kit is kept refrigerated.
36. The method of claim 31, wherein the serving tray is fabricated of at least semi-rigid material.
37. A method of using a party tray kit comprising:
obtaining a refrigerated, pre-packaged serving tray contained within a carrier, the serving tray containing at least one food item in a first compartment and at least one food item in a second compartment, wherein the food items in the first and second compartments are preserved by the application of a lidding film and are of sufficient quantity for multiple individuals;
removing the serving tray from the carrier;
removing the lidding film from the serving tray;
serving the serving tray to multiple individuals.
38. The method of claim 37, wherein
the carrier has a first compartment and a second compartment; and
removing the serving tray comprises removing the serving tray from the first compartment.
39. The method of claim 38, further comprising removing at least one condiment from the second compartment.
40. The method of claim 39, further comprising placing at least one condiment into an auxiliary receptacle associated with a first compartment of the serving tray.
Description
    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0001]
    1. Field of the Invention
  • [0002]
    This invention is directed to a packaged food tray.
  • [0003]
    2. Related Art
  • [0004]
    As food quality, sanitation, refrigeration and packaging practices have improved, the ability and opportunity to provide prepared and ready-to-eat food products has increased. While there has been an exponential increase in packaged foods that are frozen or not refrigerated, such as crackers, chips and frozen foods packaged as single entrees or complete meals, there has not been an equally explosive growth in ready-to-eat foods that require only refrigeration.
  • [0005]
    While prepared frozen foods come in a wide variety of styles and sizes, foods that are more appetizing when refrigerated are neither available in such large varieties, nor are most refrigerated foods amenable to long-term storage. For example, deli-style foods are not readily amenable to drying or freezing for long-term storage because such processes adversely affect their taste, texture and/or appearance. While some deli-style foods are commercially available refrigerated, these items are only available as pre-packaged single items, such as luncheon meats. Large ready-to-serve platters that serve parties of multiple users need to be ordered on a short-term basis and have a short shelf-life. As a consequence, the consumer is limited to attractively arranged party trays that must be prepared shortly before customer pick-up or delivery. Such trays must normally be used shortly after pick-up or delivery due to the risk of spoilage and/or the rapidly deteriorating appearance of the food items on the large, difficult to refrigerate trays. Further, the retailer is limited in its ability to prepare and store large pre-made food trays for the same reasons.
  • [0006]
    Other types of refrigerated, deli-type foods are available as kits. Such kits comprise either single-serving items and/or require further preparation for use and/or must be consumed within a short period of time. Numerous pre-packaged, refrigerated food trays are known that, for the most part, comprise individual serving meals. Examples include U.S. Pat. No. 6,048,558, which discloses a kit for assembling a sandwich, such as a turkey hoagie, a hamburger or a hotdog, in which all of the components are individually wrapped. Similarly, U.S. Pat. No. 5,747,084 discloses a ready-to-assemble pizza kit comprising a pizza crust and toppings, which are each individually packaged within a rigid tray. U.S. Pat. No. 6,257,403 discloses a packaging system for a meal kit comprising a paperboard carton containing individually wrapped items, such as breads, sauces, beverages and candies. U.S. Pat. No. 6,022,571 discloses a pre-packaged serving tray containing shrimp in which the shrimp are presented ready-to-eat in an attractive arrangement. However, unlike the kits described above, the shrimp tray must be shipped frozen and has a short shelf-life once placed in a refrigerated display case for sale.
  • SUMMARY OF DISCLOSED EMBODIMENTS
  • [0007]
    While these known, refrigerated, pre-packaged food products provide meals or appetizers, none provides a pre-packaged food assortment which provides a ready-to-serve party tray comprising various attractively arranged meats or other foods or consumables, including toppings, garnishes and/or condiments. Further, none of the refrigerated food products comes in a sealed, clear package that also has sufficient shelf-life that it can be assembled and shipped by a manufacturer, displayed by a retailer and purchased and stored by the consumer over a reasonably long period without compromising the quality, taste and/or appearance of the food items contained within the package.
  • [0008]
    This invention provides a pre-packaged food tray having a variety of consumables that are ready-to-eat.
  • [0009]
    This invention separately provides a pre-packaged food tray that easily and attractively presents the foodstuffs for consumption.
  • [0010]
    This invention separately provides a pre-packaged food tray that contains a sufficiently large amount of food so that it can feed multiple individuals during the course of a party or large gathering.
  • [0011]
    This invention separately provides a food tray having a clear, sealed covering that maintains the quality and freshness of the contents for a substantial period of time.
  • [0012]
    This invention separately provides a food tray having a clear, sealed covering that allows the contents to be easily visually inspected.
  • [0013]
    This invention separately provides a carrier for the food tray that allows the contents of the food tray to be easily shipped and displayed.
  • [0014]
    This invention separately provides a carrier that safely and conveniently holds a food tray during shipping and storage while providing a window that allows the contents of the tray to be inspected while stored.
  • [0015]
    This invention separately provides a carrier for a food tray that has inner compartments providing storage for condiments, relishes and/or other food items.
  • [0016]
    This invention separately provides a kit of components of a food tray containing a quantity of various deli-style food items preserved under refrigeration.
  • [0017]
    This invention separately provides a kit in which the various deli-style meat items may be loaded in an attractive and easily usable fluffed or folded array.
  • [0018]
    This invention separately provides a method for assembling a kit containing a quantity of various deli-style food items usable by a number of people and having a substantial shelf-life when kept under refrigeration.
  • [0019]
    This invention separately provides a method of using a kit containing a quantity of various deli-style food items kept under refrigeration.
  • [0020]
    This invention provides a method for assembling a food tray that contains a quantity of food items, can be stored for a period of time and can be shipped for distribution while allowing the contents to be visually inspected and easily displayed.
  • [0021]
    This invention provides a method for using a food tray that contains a quantity of food items, can be stored for a period of time and has a variety of condiments, sauces, relishes and garnishes that are usable by multiple individuals.
  • [0022]
    In various exemplary embodiments, a food tray kit containing a quantity of food items usable by a number of people, may be loaded under sanitary conditions with sliced food items and sealed against spoilage at the factory. The food tray kit can be stored for a period of time and can be shipped for distribution while allowing the contents to be visually inspected and easily displayed. In various exemplary embodiments, the food tray kit includes a serving tray that has an annular area containing ready-to-eat food products. The serving tray has a number of peripheral areas around the annular area into which toppings or condiments, which are included in the food tray kit and are readily preserved when the food tray kit is stored under refrigeration, can be placed. In various other exemplary embodiments, the food tray has an array of individual compartments and/or receptacles usable to store various food products.
  • [0023]
    In various exemplary embodiments, a food tray kit containing a quantity of food items is prepared under sanitary conditions and sealed against spoilage at the factory. The food tray kit can be stored for a substantial period of time and can be shipped for distribution while allowing the contents to be visually inspected and easily displayed. In various exemplary embodiments, the food tray kit includes a serving tray that has first compartment containing ready-to-eat food products suitable for use by a number of people. In various other exemplary embodiments, a second compartment containing accompanying food items is provided. The serving tray has a number of peripheral or interior receptacles into which toppings or condiments, which are included in the food tray kit and are readily preserved when the food tray kit is stored under refrigeration, can be placed. In various other exemplary embodiments, the food tray kit has at least one other individual compartment and/or receptacle usable to store various food products.
  • [0024]
    In various exemplary embodiments, a method of assembling a food tray kit according to this invention provides a quantity of at least one of a food item, appropriate for use by a number of individuals, loaded in a first compartment and at least one of an accompanying food item loaded in a second compartment of a serving tray. The serving tray is hermetically sealed with a lidding film to maintain freshness. The serving tray is packaged within a carrier, the carrier providing protection during shipment and storage for at least one condiment and/or relish to accompany the at least one food item in the serving tray. The food tray kit according to this invention can be stored for a substantial period of time under refrigeration.
  • [0025]
    In various exemplary embodiments, a method of using a food tray kit according to this invention is described. In various exemplary embodiments, a refrigerated food tray kit is purchased by a user and kept refrigerated until use. A serving tray packaged with a quantity of at least one food item is removed from a carrier of the food tray kit. A protective lidding film is removed from the serving tray. Condiments and/or relishes contained within the carrier are placed about the serving tray.
  • [0026]
    These and other features and advantages of various exemplary embodiments of the party tray and methods according to this invention are described in, or are apparent from, the following detailed description of various exemplary embodiments of the article and methods according to this invention.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0027]
    Various exemplary embodiments of the structures according to this invention will be described in detail, with reference to the following figures, wherein:
  • [0028]
    FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one exemplary embodiment of a food tray according to this invention;
  • [0029]
    FIG. 2 is a top plan view of the food tray shown in FIG. 1, loaded with various food items;
  • [0030]
    FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the food tray shown in FIG. 2, having condiments and relishes placed in the corner receptacles;
  • [0031]
    FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of the food tray of FIG. 2 taken along section line 4;
  • [0032]
    FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of the food tray of FIG. 2 taken along section line 5;
  • [0033]
    FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a second exemplary embodiment of a food tray according to this invention;
  • [0034]
    FIG. 7 is a top plan view of a food tray shown in FIG. 6, loaded with various food items;
  • [0035]
    FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional view of the food tray of FIG. 6 taken along section line 8;
  • [0036]
    FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view of the food tray of FIG. 6 taken along section line 9;
  • [0037]
    FIG. 10 is a top plan view of a third exemplary embodiment of a food tray according to this invention;
  • [0038]
    FIGS. 11 and 12 are a flowchart outlining one exemplary embodiment of a method for preparing the food tray according to this invention; and
  • [0039]
    FIG. 13 is a flowchart outlining one exemplary embodiment of a method for using the food tray according to this invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS
  • [0040]
    While there is no shortage of prepared or pre-cooked food products for ready consumption, those that afford the most choice and versatility for the user tend to be frozen products. While frozen foods come in a multitude of cooking styles and sizes, frozen products generally take further preparation, such as thawing and heating, to make them ready for consumption. In contrast, foods kept under refrigeration may be ready-to-eat, but their shelf-life is short or, in the case of luncheon meats, they are packaged in a way that does not make them amenable to a pleasing presentation and/or eating without further preparation. In addition, many refrigerated, pre-packaged, pre-cooked food items do not allow for long-term storage of the food items due to the risk of spoilage, which compromises the appearance, quality and/or taste of the food.
  • [0041]
    The spoilage risk of pre-packaged, refrigerated food products has at least two causes. First, regardless of sanitary procedures followed in any retail delicatessen, food cannot be prepared in a germ-free environment. Second, retail delicatessens or food outlets do not have the equipment available to package meat products in a modified atmosphere or hermetic packaging environment suitable for long-term storage. Because of the inherent risk of spoilage, items such as deli-style foods generally require preparation, pick-up and consumption within about 24 hours. This short timeframe means that large party food items, suitable for multiple individuals, cannot be prepared in absence of a specific order and stored for subsequent sale. Similarly, the retailer must have sufficient personnel available who can individually prepare refrigerated food trays on short notice.
  • [0042]
    The following detailed description discloses various exemplary embodiments of a refrigerated, pre-packaged, ready-to-eat food tray that allows long-distance shipment and extended storage without compromising the taste, quality and/or attractiveness of the food products contained within the food tray.
  • [0043]
    FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one exemplary embodiment of a party tray kit 100 according to this invention. As illustrated, the party tray kit 100 includes a box or carrier 110 containing a pre-packaged serving tray 200 in a first compartment 120 and condiments, garnishes and/or sauces in a second compartment 130.
  • [0044]
    As illustrated in FIG. 1, the carrier 110 has a bottom side 111, two short sides 112 and 114, two long sides 113 and 115, a first top flap 116 and a second top flap 117. In various exemplary embodiments, the long sides 113 and 115 are twice the height of the carrier 110. In such exemplary embodiments, the sides 113 and 115 are folded in half and folded into the carrier 110 resulting in a double-wall construction of the long sides 113 and 115. Further, in some such exemplary embodiments, as well as various other exemplary embodiments, the long sides 113 and 115 have a slit cut in the upper half such that, when folded over, a slot 119 is formed in the inner portions of the long side walls 113 and 115. In the exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 1, each of the top flaps 116 and 117 has a portion 118 such that, when the top flaps 116 and 117 are closed, the portions 118 fit into the slots 119. When closed, the first top flap 116, along with its portion 118, the short sides 114 and the adjacent portions of the long sides 113 and 115 and the bottom 111 define the first compartment 120 that holds the serving tray 200.
  • [0045]
    In various exemplary embodiments, the first top flap 116 may define an opening or window 116 a that allows a purchaser to view the contents of the first compartment 120. When closed, the second top flap 117, along with its portion 118, the short side 112 and the adjacent portions of the long sides 113 and 115 and the bottom 111 defines the second compartment 130, which is typically used to hold a variety of condiments and/or other food items, including, for example, relishes and/or garnishes provided in various ready-to-serve packages 131. In the exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the packages of condiments may include mustard 132, mayonnaise 134, olives 136 and pickles 138.
  • [0046]
    As shown in FIG. 1, in various exemplary embodiments, the serving tray 200 may be thermoformed from unitary thermoplastic sheet material. The serving tray 200 may have two long outer walls 202 and 204, two short outer walls 203 and 205 and an inner wall 206. The inner wall 206 is perpendicular to outer walls 202 and 204 and, with the outer walls 202-205, defines a first compartment 210 and a second compartment 220. As shown in FIG. 1, in various exemplary embodiments, the bottom of the first compartment 210 comprises a sloped annular surface 212 and a flat bottom 214. In some exemplary embodiments, the sloped annular surface 212 of the first compartment may have a frustoconical shape. One or more corner pockets or receptacles 218 are formed between the side 213 of the sloped annular surface 212, the bottom of the serving tray 216, the outer walls 202, 203, and 204 and the inner wall 206. It should be appreciated, however, that the flat bottom 214 can be omitted or located away from the center of the first compartment 210.
  • [0047]
    As shown in FIG. 1, in various exemplary embodiments, the second compartment 220 is defined by the short outer wall 205 and the inner wall 206 and the adjacent portions of long walls 202 and 204. A middle divider 222 divides the second compartment 220 into a first side 230 and a second side 240. FIG. 1 illustrates that, in various exemplary embodiments, the first side 230 and the second side 240 have sloped bottom surfaces 232 and 242 and flat portions 234 and 244, respectively. In the exemplary embodiment shown on FIG. 1, the sloped bottom surfaces 232 and 242 slope toward the outer walls 202 and 204, respectively, but of course, could slope in the opposite direction if desired. The flat portions 234 and 244 connect to the walls 202 and 204, respectively. In various exemplary embodiments, the flat portions 234 and 244 can be omitted.
  • [0048]
    FIG. 2 is a top plan view of the exemplary embodiment of the serving tray 200 illustrated in FIG. 1 when loaded with food items. In this exemplary embodiment, the sloped annular surface 212 of the first compartment 210 is loaded with food items 251. Similarly, the first side 230 and second side 240 of the second compartment 220 contain food items 252 and 253, respectively. In some exemplary embodiments, when the food items 251 in the first compartment 210 are meats, such as cold-cuts, the food items 252 and 253 in the second compartment 220 may be cheeses, such as American cheese, provolone cheese, Swiss cheese, cheddar cheese, or some other desired cheese, or two or more such cheeses. Further, when the food items 251 are cold-cuts, the cold-cuts may be loaded in the first compartment 210 in a folded or “fluffed” manner. This places the “fluffed” cold-cuts in an attractive arrangement while allowing the cold-cuts to be easily removed from the serving tray 200. In general, although not required by this invention, the food items 252 and 253 will be appropriately related to the food item 251. However, it should be appreciated that the food items 251-253 in the serving tray 200 may be any desired food items that are appropriately used with the serving tray 200 and party tray kit 100 according to this invention.
  • [0049]
    FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the serving tray 200 shown in FIG. 2 with corner receptacles 218 filled and fully ready to serve to the multiple individuals. In this view, condiments, such as mustard 132 and mayonnaise 134, and relishes, such as olives 136 and pickles 138, have been taken out of the packages 131 stored in the second compartment 130 of the carrier 110 and placed in the corner receptacles 218. As shown, when fully ready for use, the serving tray provides an attractive presentation of the food items 251 arranged on the annular surface 210, surrounded by various condiments and/or relishes 132-138, and the accompanying food items 252 and 253. If desired, the user can provide bread or rolls or any other item to accompany the food items 251-253 contained in the serving tray.
  • [0050]
    It should be appreciated that other condiments, sauces or relishes, such as horseradish, seafood sauce, pepper relish, chutney, or the like, are easily included with the party tray kit 100. If more or different food items are desired than the number of receptacles provided for with the party tray kit 100 (and/or are added by the user), additional sauces, relishes, or condiments or the like may be provided in additional containers arranged about the serving tray 200 as desired.
  • [0051]
    FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of the serving tray 200 taken through section line 4 of FIG. 2 and viewed in the direction of the arrows. FIG. 4 shows the sloped or inclined annular surface 212 of the first compartment 210 when loaded with the food items 251. FIG. 4 also shows the corner receptacles 218 formed by side 213, the outer walls 203 or the inner wall 206, and top surface 201. FIG. 4 further shows the middle divider 222 of the second compartment 220, and the bottom face of the sloped or inclined bottom 232 of the first side 230 and the schematically shown food items 253. In addition, FIG. 4 shows a transparent lidding film 260 that can be releasably applied to the top surface 201 of the serving tray 200 in a fluid-tight relation by heat sealing, adhesive or other hermetic sealing method.
  • [0052]
    FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of the serving tray 200 taken along section line 5 of FIG. 2 and viewed in the direction of the arrows. FIG. 5 shows the second compartment 220, including the first side 230 and the second side 240, which are separated by middle divider 222. As shown in FIG. 5, in various exemplary embodiments, the middle divider 222 is not as high as the top surface 201. FIG. 5 also shows the sloped or inclined bottoms 232 and 242 of the first and second sides 230 and 240, respectively. FIG. 5 further shows the bottom face of the sloped or inclined annular surface 212 and the flat bottom 214 of the first compartment 210 behind the second compartment 220. As shown in FIG. 5, the sloped or inclined bottoms 232 and 242 of the first and second sides 230 and 240, respectively, reach the depth of the serving tray 200 prior to meeting the side walls 236 and 246 of the second compartment 220, resulting in the flat portions 234 and 244. The food items 252 and 253 are shown loaded in the second compartment 220 and the lidding film 260 is applied to the top surface 201.
  • [0053]
    FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a second exemplary embodiment of the party tray kit 100 according to this invention. In the exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 6 the party tray kit 100 includes the box or carrier 110 as described above for FIG. 1. While the carrier 110 is generally constructed as described above, as shown in FIG. 6, in various exemplary embodiments, the carrier 110 may have a structural and/or decorative bar or slat 121 positioned in the window of the first top flap 116.
  • [0054]
    FIG. 6 also illustrates a second exemplary embodiment of a serving tray 300 according to this invention. As shown in FIG. 6, the serving tray 300 has two long outer walls 302 and 304 and two short outer walls 303 and 305. The serving tray 300 also has an inner wall 306 extending perpendicular to the walls 302 and 304 and that, with the walls 302-305, divides the interior of the serving tray 300 into a large first compartment 310 and a smaller second compartment 320. In this exemplary embodiment, the first compartment 310 has a flat bottom 311 and a receptacle 312 formed by a wall 313. It should be appreciated that, in this exemplary embodiment, the wall 313 need not be as tall as the top surface 301. In addition, the receptacle 312 has an internal bottom 314 that, in various exemplary embodiments, need not be as deep as the bottom 311 of the first compartment 310.
  • [0055]
    It should be appreciated that, while the receptacle 312 is shown in FIG. 6 as being round and centrally located, the receptacle 312 can be located anywhere within the first compartment 310 and can be any desired and obtainable shape. It should also be appreciated that, if the receptacle 312 is located adjacent to one or more of the walls 302-304 and/or 306, those wall(s) could be used with the wall 313 to form the receptacle 312. Additionally, it should be appreciated that multiple ones of the receptacle 312 can be provided and/or one or more of the provided receptacle(s) 312 could be sub-divided into separate portions by one or more interior walls. Any condiment, garnish, relish, sauce, dip, or any other desired food item, or the like, can be placed into the receptacle 312.
  • [0056]
    As shown in FIG. 6, the second compartment 320 also has a middle divider 322 situated between the outer wall 305 and the inner wall 306. As with the circular wall 313, in various exemplary embodiments, the middle divider 322 need not, but may, be as tall as the top surface 301. As illustrated in FIG. 6, the middle divider 322 divides the second compartment 320 into a first side 330 and a second side 340. As shown in FIG. 6, both the first side 330 and the second side 340 have flat bottoms 332 and 342, respectively.
  • [0057]
    FIG. 7 is a top plan view of the serving tray 300 illustrated in FIG. 6 when loaded with food items 351-353. As illustrated in FIG. 7, in various exemplary embodiments, when the food items 351 are cold-cuts, the cold-cuts maybe loaded in the first compartment 310 in an annular array around the receptacle 312 in a folded or “fluffed” manner. Fluffed cold-cuts provide an attractive display and allows the individual meat slices to be easily removed from the first compartment 310. In addition, the other food items 352 and 353, are loaded in the first side 330 and second side 340, respectively, of the second compartment 320. In various exemplary embodiments, food items 352 and 353 are any food items that desirably accompany the food item 351. As shown in FIG. 7, a releasable lidding film 360 may be applied to the top surface 301 in a fluid-tight relation to hermetically seal the compartments and their contents from the atmosphere.
  • [0058]
    FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional view of the exemplary embodiment of the serving tray 300 illustrated in FIG. 7 taken along section line 8 and viewed in the direction of the arrows. FIG. 8 shows the interior of the first compartment 310 and the receptacle 312 formed by the wall 313. FIG. 8 also shows the middle divider 322 of the second compartment 320. The releasable lidding film 360 is applied to the top surface 301 to seal in the schematically shown contents of the serving tray 300.
  • [0059]
    FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view of the serving tray illustrated in FIG. 7, taken through line section line 9 and viewed in the direction of the arrows. FIG. 9 shows the outer walls 302 and 304 of the serving tray 300. FIG. 9 also shows how the middle divider 322 of the second compartment 320 divides the second compartment 320 into the first side 330 and the second side 340. FIG. 9 also shows how the schematically shown food items 352 and 353 are loaded into the first side 330 and the second side 340, respectively. The releasable lidding film 360 is applied to the top surface 301 to hermetically seal in the food items 351, 352 and 353 loaded in the serving tray 300.
  • [0060]
    FIG. 10 is a top plan view of a third exemplary embodiment of a serving tray 400 according to this invention. As shown in FIG. 10, the serving tray 400 has long sides 402 and 404, short sides 403 and 405 and inner walls 406, 407 and 408. Accordingly, in this exemplary embodiment, the serving tray has a first portion 410 having a first compartment 411, a second compartment 412, a third compartment 413 and a fourth compartment 414. In addition, the serving tray 400 includes a second portion 420 having a middle divider 422 that divides the second portion into a first side 430 and a second side 440. In the exemplary embodiment shown, primary food items 451 and 454-456 are loaded in the first 411, second 412, third 413 and fourth 414 compartments, respectively, while second and third food items 452 and 453 are loaded in the first side 430 and second side 440, respectively. In some exemplary embodiments, the food items 451 and 454-456 may all be the same type of item, such as, for example, cold-cuts of meat. Further, when the food items 451 and 454-456 are the same type of item, such as cold-cuts, the primary food items 451 and 454-456 may all be of the same variety or they may all be different varieties. In addition, the second and third food items 452 and 453 may be items such as cheese or other foodstuffs chosen to accompany the food items packaged in the first portion 410.
  • [0061]
    FIGS. 1-10 illustrate three exemplary embodiments of a party tray kit according to this invention. In the exemplary embodiments shown in these figures, the food items packaged in the first compartment or portion may be shaved and folded, or “fluffed”, meats including roast beef, smoked turkey, smoked ham and/or the like. In some exemplary embodiments, the serving tray according to this invention may be pre-packaged with different cold-cuts in different compartments. When the food items are cold-cuts, loading them in a folded or “fluffed” style results in an attractive display. At the same time, fluffing allows individual meat slices to be easily grasped and separately removed from the tray for use. In various exemplary embodiments, at least 16 ounces each of three different types of cold-cuts that can be placed into the first compartment or portion so that it can be used by multiple individuals. Similarly, in some exemplary embodiments, the food items loaded in the second compartment or portion may be one or more varieties of cheese. In various exemplary embodiments, if cheese is loaded in the second compartment or portion, approximately 8 ounces may be placed in each of the first and second sides. However, it should be appreciated that the types and amounts of food items included in the party tray kit 100 may vary depending on the size of the party tray desired and/or taste of the purchaser. For example, while the food items contained in the party tray kit 100 may comprise cold-cuts, they may also include other food items, such as pork, chicken, seafood and the like.
  • [0062]
    Lidding films are known in the art. Such films can be used with modified atmosphere packaging techniques to maintain the freshness of the products packaged within. Briefly, the serving tray is loaded with the desired food items, and a lidding film, which may be a laminate of, for example, polyester and polyethelyne, and which may include an anti-fog agent, is unwound from a roll of film onto the top of the serving tray. A sealing die is applied, and the air inside the serving tray is evacuated by a vacuum. Nitrogen, carbon dioxide or other desirable preservative gases, including inert gases, are then back-flushed into the die chamber in various ratios depending on the food item contained within. The lidding film is then sealed to the top of the serving tray by heat. However, it should be appreciated that the film can be sealed to the top surface of the walls and by any appropriate known or later-developed method, such as adhesives, sonic and/or radio frequency welding or the like.
  • [0063]
    While the serving tray 200, 300 or 400 may be made of any convenient material, in various exemplary embodiments, the serving tray is made of a substantially rigid, fluid-tight, easily sanitized material. Accordingly, convenient ways to form the serving tray include thermoforming and injection molding. When these methods are used, the tray may be formed using polymers that provide an effective oxygen barrier, such as ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH). In addition, copolymers of EVOH that include nylon and nylon blends may be used. However, it should be appreciated that the serving tray can be formed by other suitable methods and materials known or later-developed.
  • [0064]
    In various exemplary embodiments, the carrier 110 is made of cardboard or paper board. The carrier 110 can be made of any appropriate known or later-developed, low-cost material that appropriately encloses and protects the serving tray 200, 300 or 400. Such materials may include any appropriate plastic(s), such as polystyrene, or the like or any other known or later-developed appropriate material. Similarly, the carrier 110 may be any size sufficient to contain the desired serving tray 200, 300 or 400 and condiments. In addition, the carrier 110 may have printing or adhesive labels on it describing the contents of the carrier 110 and the virtues of the kit 100. For example, the carrier 110 may disclose, by words or pictures, the different items packaged in the serving tray and describe a recommended method of storage and/or use. In use, the serving tray 200, 300 or 400 is removed from the carrier 110, and the releasable lidding film is removed from the tray. The relishes, condiments or other accompanying food items are removed from the second compartment of the carrier 110 and may be placed in the corner receptacles 218 of the serving tray 200, the at least one compartment 312 of the serving tray 300 or about the serving tray 200, 300 or 400 in any other desired manner.
  • [0065]
    In addition, it should be appreciated that the serving tray according to this invention is not limited to the exemplary embodiments of the serving tray described above. For example, the exemplary embodiment of the serving tray 200 shown in FIG. 1 has a first compartment 210 in which the differentially raised bottom of the annular surface 212 slopes down to the flat bottom 214. However, it should be appreciated that the annular surface could slope upwards to a raised surface. Similarly, in the exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the first and second side 230 and 240, respectively, slope down from the middle divider 222. However, in various other exemplary embodiments, the flat portions 234 and 244 can be located adjacent to the middle divider 222 and the bottoms of the first and second compartments 230 and 240 slope up to the adjacent portions of walls 202 and 204, respectively.
  • [0066]
    It should also be appreciated that, in various other exemplary embodiments, the first and second sides 230 and 240 respectively, could have flat bottoms, like the first and second sides 330 and 340 shown in FIGS. 6-9. Alternatively, it should be appreciated that, in various other exemplary embodiments, the first and second sides 330 and 340 could have sloped bottoms, similar to the first and second sides 230 and 240 shown in FIGS. 1-5. Additionally, it should be appreciated that one or more of the first through fourth compartments 411-414, the first side 430 and/or the second side 440 could also have sloped bottoms. Of course, the number and sizes of the various compartments may be varied as desired. Various exemplary embodiments of the serving tray 200, 300 and 400 described here have walls and/or dividers that are not co-extensive with the sealing surface. However, in other exemplary embodiments, all or a portion of the walls and/or dividers may be co-extensive with the sealing surface, such that the lidding film seals the contents of each compartment from the others.
  • [0067]
    It should also be appreciated that, in various other exemplary embodiments, the bottom surface 311 of the first compartment 310 can slope between the receptacle 312 and the walls 302-304 and 306, and in either direction. Similar exemplary embodiments could be provided by replacing the flat bottom portion 214 with the receptacle 312 and wall 313 in the first compartment 210. In short, while various exemplary embodiments according to the invention are described herein, various features and/or elements may be substituted, interchanged or their orientations altered to result in various other exemplary embodiments according to the invention that may have mixtures or combinations of the elements and/or features not specifically shown in the exemplary embodiments illustrated herein.
  • [0068]
    FIGS. 11 and 12 are a flowchart outlining one exemplary embodiment of a method of assembling a party tray kit according to this invention. As shown in FIGS. 11 and 12, the method begins in step S100 and continues to step S110 where a selection of prepared food components to be loaded into the party tray kit is made. Next, in step S115, the selected products, such as cold-cuts, are arranged in a first compartment of the serving tray. Then, in step S120, accompanying food products, such as cheese, are placed in a second compartment of the serving tray. It should be appreciated that the food components can be an initially processed food product which is received and possibly stored in a designated area of a food processing facility that meets appropriate standards of cleanliness and hygiene. Such methods of food preparation and hygiene are described in, for example, U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/818,944, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety. Operation then continues to step S130.
  • [0069]
    In step S130, a lidding film is placed over the filled serving tray. Then, in step S135, a vacuum is used to evacuate the residual air inside the tray, and the serving tray is back-flushed with an inert or preservative gas, according to recognized principles of modified atmosphere packaging techniques. Next, in step S140, the lidding film is sealed to the serving tray by application of the heated die. Operation then continues to step S145.
  • [0070]
    In step S145, the sealed serving tray is transferred to a packaging area. Next, in step S150, the sealed serving tray is placed into the first compartment of a carrier. Then, in step S155, hermetically sealed pouches or containers of selected condiments appropriate for the foods sealed in the serving tray are placed in the second compartment of the carrier and the carrier is closed, and, optionally sealed. Operation then continues to step S160.
  • [0071]
    In step S160, the closed carrier is transferred to a refrigerated holding area. Then, in step S165, the party tray kits are shipped under refrigeration to a wholesale, retail, institutional or end-use customer, as desired. Operation then continues to step S170, where operation of the method ends.
  • [0072]
    FIG. 13 is a flowchart outlining one exemplary embodiment of a method of using the party tray kit according to this invention. As shown, the method begins at step S200 and continues to step S210, where the consumer purchases the carrier containing the party tray kit. Next, if not used immediately, in step S220, the purchaser keeps the party tray kit under refrigeration until use. Then, in step S230, the user removes the serving tray from the carrier. Operation then continues to step S240.
  • [0073]
    In step S240, the releasable lidding film is removed from the serving tray. Next, in step S250, the condiments are removed from the second compartment of the carrier. Then, in step S260, the condiments are arranged for use around the serving tray, such as, for example, in one or more peripheral receptacle(s) and/or one or more receptacles located within the first compartment of the serving tray. Operation then continues to step S270, where operation of the method ends.
  • [0074]
    It should be appreciated that, depending on the exemplary embodiment of the party tray kit purchased, the condiments may either be arranged in one or more peripheral receptacles, as shown in the exemplary embodiment of the serving tray 200 illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2, in one or more interior receptacles, such as the receptacle 312 shown in the exemplary embodiment of the serving tray 300 illustrated in FIGS. 6 and 7, or variously about the serving tray as the user desires.
  • [0075]
    While the exemplary embodiments illustrated herein describe the contents of the first compartment or portion as deli-style meats, the serving trays according to this invention can be used with any appropriate perishable food item. The party tray kit is particularly amenable to use with perishable food items that are not easily stored or desirably preserved by freezing, canning or dehydrating. While one desirable method for sealing the lidding film to the tray is by heat sealing, any other known or later-developed suitable method can be used, such as, for example, the use of releasable adhesives or sonic or radio wave frequency welding.
  • [0076]
    The above-outlined exemplary embodiments of the party tray according to this invention are usable to prepare, store and serve food items that are desirably stored in a refrigerated environment. Each of the various structures and methods described herein are separately useful. It should be appreciated that party trays and kits according to this invention do not need to use all or even a plurality of the various structures disclosed herein and can use specific features selected from each of a number of such exemplary embodiments.
  • [0077]
    While this invention has been described in conjunction with the exemplary embodiments outlined above, various alternatives, modifications, variations, improvements, and/or substantial equivalents, whether known or that are or may be presently unforeseen, may become apparent to those having at least an ordinary skill in the art. The exemplary embodiments of the invention as set forth above are intended to be illustrative, not limiting. Various changes may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. The invention is intended to embrace all known or earlier developed alternatives, modifications, variations, improvements and/or substantial equivalents.
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Classifications
U.S. Classification426/120
International ClassificationB65D81/32
Cooperative ClassificationB65D77/0433, B65D81/2069
European ClassificationB65D81/20F, B65D77/04C3
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Dec 6, 2004ASAssignment
Owner name: IOWA TURKEY GROWERS COOPERATIVE, LLC, IOWA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:GARRETT, EDWARD S.;REEL/FRAME:016064/0298
Effective date: 20041115