US 20060185990 A1
A salad container assembly is disclosed including a base, a cover removably mounted on the base, and a sealed salad dressing insert for nesting within the cover having a flexible top, a salad dressing reservoir, an opening, a seal over the opening, and a puncturing mechanism capable of breaking the seal on application of sufficient pressure to the flexible top thereby allowing the contents of the reservoir to dispense into the base.
1. A disposable fluid food product dispensing container assembly comprising:
a base having an upper rim edge;
a cover mounted removably on said upper edge of said base, said cover having an opening; and
a removably attachable, fluid containing insert package defining a sealed receptacle dimensioned to be inserted into and adapted to seat within said opening, said insert package including a deformable, flexible top, a reservoir, a dispensing opening allowing communication between said fluid reservoir and said base, a puncturable seal over said dispensing opening, a puncturing mechanism capable of breaking the seal upon application of sufficient pressure to said flexible top, for dispensing the content of the fluid reservoir into the base.
2. A salad container assembly comprising:
a base having an upper rim edge,
a cover mounted removably on said upper edge of said base, said cover having an opening,
a salad dressing insert package defining a sealed receptacle dimensioned to be inserted into and adapted to seat within said opening, said insert package including a deformable, flexible top, a salad dressing reservoir, a dispensing opening allowing communication between said fluid reservoir and said base, a puncturable seal over said dispensing opening, a puncturing mechanism capable of breaking the seal upon application of sufficient pressure to said flexible top, for dispensing the content of the fluid reservoir into the base.
3. The salad container assembly of
4. The salad container assembly of
5. The salad container assembly of
6. A sanitary, portion-packaged, fluid food product dispenser comprising a deformable container defining a fluid reservoir said container having a cylindrical neck defining a food dispensing opening, a puncturing mechanism mounted to said container proximate to said food dispensing opening and extending in part within said fluid reservoir, a puncturable seal for sealing said food dispensing opening, being puncturable by said puncturing mechanism upon deformation of the container and displacement of said puncturing mechanism.
7. The food product dispenser of
8. The food product dispenser of
9. The food product dispenser of
10. The food product dispenser of
11. A method for using a salad container assembly as recited in
a) affixing the salad dressing insert package to said cover,
b) depressing said flexible top,
c) puncturing said seal, and
d) releasing the fluid.
This application is an application filed under 35 U.S.C. §111(a) claiming benefit pursuant to 35 U.S.C. §119(e)(1) of the filing date of the Provisional Application 60/648,411 filed on Feb. 1, 2005 pursuant to 35 U.S.C. §111 (b), the entire contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.
The present invention relates generally to food containers and particularly to a salad container with an insert chamber for salad dressing, and even more particularly to a disposable, limited use salad container.
As described in the earlier, U.S. Pat. No. 6,302,268, traditionally, containers are used for storing and transporting salads using various conventional containers which are generally bowl-like and relatively shallow in configuration. Salad dressing, which is sold along with the salad, typically is provided in a portion packaged squeeze tube or small cylindrical package and is placed into the same container as the salad ingredients (lettuce, tomatoes, etc.). If subject to movement, e.g., transportation, the salad dressing package, usually weighing more than, for example, lettuce, will settle to the bottom of the container and may move about freely within the container causing damage or bruising of the salad ingredients.
An additional problem typically occurs when it is desired to mix the salad dressing and the other salad ingredients. Typically, to do this requires opening the salad dressing container, opening the salad container, pouring the salad dressing onto the salad, disposing of the dressing package, and then “tossing” the salad either by agitation or with a utensil. Such action may be both awkward and messy, and in the event of an imperfectly closed container can result in spillage. Furthermore, in the case of a shallow bowl-like container, the degree of mixing or tossing of the dressing with the salad ingredients may be uneven.
In the case where pre-packed salad dressing containers are not used, further problems of inefficiency and spillage may arise from filling individual salad dressing containers.
These problems were partly addressed by the invention of U.S. Pat. No. 6,302,268, the subject matter of which is incorporated herein by reference.
Notwithstanding the usefulness of the above-described structures typically used with salad containers, a need still exists for a disposable and limited/single-use salad container assembly with the ability to receive and retain one of a variety of user-selectable discrete salad dressing packages, separate from the salad container that provides for easy, uniform dispersal of salad dressing over salad ingredients with a minimum of mess.
It is an object of the present invention to provide a disposable salad container of a design contemplating limited and/or single use where the container includes separate chambers for conveniently storing and transporting the salad ingredients and salad dressing without unwanted damage or mixing prior to use.
A further object of the present invention is to provide a lightweight, semi-disposable salad container with a salad dressing insert that can be used to mix salad ingredients and salad dressing in a neat and efficient manner, such as by shaking.
A further object of the invention is to provide a relatively lightweight, limited/single-use, salad dressing container package.
Yet another object of the present invention is to provide a relatively lightweight, limited/single-use, disposable salad container which accommodates a complementary, economically manufactured, sanitary, easily shipped and vended salad dressing portion package that insures substantially uniform dispersal of the dressing within the container.
As used herein, “substantially,” “generally,” “relatively” and other words of degree are relative modifiers intended to indicate permissible variation from the characteristic so modified. They are not intended to be limited to the absolute value or characteristic which they modify, but rather possessing more of the physical or functional characteristic than its opposite, and preferably approaching or approximating such a physical or functional characteristic.
As used herein, the term “flexible top” refers to a deformable structure fabricated of a flexible material, such as propylene or styrene plastics, possessing sufficient strength to meet the functional objectives discussed herein, to provide a substantially impervious environmental seal in ambient conditions under normal use, and, in certain cases, resiliency permitting shape recovery.
In the following description, reference is made to the accompanying drawings, which is shown by way of illustration to specific embodiments by which the invention may be practiced. The following illustrated embodiments should make apparent and enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and that structural changes based on presently known structural and/or functional equivalents may be made without departing from the scope of the invention.
Given the following detailed description, it should become apparent to a person having ordinary skill in the art that the invention herein provides a novel, relatively lightweight, limited/single-use, disposable salad container.
The present invention is generally directed to a limited/single-use, disposable salad container assembly and methods for assembling and using the same. A disposable salad container in accordance with embodiments illustrated in
In the embodiment depicted in
The cover 14 has a hollow chamber 24 dimensioned to receive and frictionally retain the salad dressing insert 16. In the embodiment depicted in
Although illustrated as a mushroom-shaped structure, the dressing insert package 16 may be in of geometric shape consistent with its desired storage, mounting, and dispensing functions. For example, the insert package 16 may be cylindrical, polygonal, convex, concave, etc. so long as it is of adequate deformablity to dispense the contained salad dressing into the container. The insert 16 can even be shaped in forms similar to salad ingredients such as a cauliflower, broccoli, or radishes.
The insert 16 is illustrated as being attached, e.g., snap-fit or threaded to the chamber 24. In the embodiment illustrated in
In another embodiment, illustrated in
As in the case of the above-recferenced U.S. Pat. No. 6,302,268, an elongated shaft, embedded within the dressing container is employed to dispense the dressing upon selected actuation. The particular mounting site within the inner surface of the container, i.e. projecting from the bottom or the top, is functionally equivalent so long as the shaft is capable of opening the chamber upon deformation (pressing) of the flexible top.
In this invention, in order to more completely break the seal of the package insert 16, preferably the puncture mechanism 82 includes not only the shaft 72, but also a distribution disk 32 for bearing upon the seal 20 when pressure 78 is applied to the flexible top 38 of the insert 16. The particular configuration of the shaft 72 is not important so long as it possesses sufficient dimensions and rigidity to meet its puncturing functionality. It may be appropriate in some cases to employ more than one shaft, particularly in the absence of a below-described distribution disk 32.
The distribution disk 32 is best described as a planar member with a diameter smaller than the opening 91. The distribution disk 82 also includes a connecting element (in this case tab 94) connecting the planar member 32 to a circular collar support 93 disposed about the dispensing opening 91 of the insert 16. The tab 94 is notched on the underside to act as a hinge, allowing the distribution disk 32 to pivot relative to the collar when moved by pressure applied by the user to the flexible top. In the absence of such a connection of the puncturing member to the collar support, the puncturing member would be pushed through the seal and into the container content, an obviously undesirable result. In this context, any attachment means can be used so long as it comports with the above-described puncturing and retaining functions. Preferably, the distribution disk 32 also features several flow-through openings that assist in distributing seal breaking pressure and in more uniformly dispensing the salad dressing after the seal 20 is broken. Preferably the puncture mechanism 82 is integrated molded piece formed from an appropriately strong, resilient polymer such as engineered polypropylene or styrene.
In the embodiment illustrated in
The invention also contemplates methods for assembling the salad container assembly whereby the container base 12 is filled with salad ingredients and the cover 14 mounted onto the base 12. In one embodiment, the assembly method also includes attaching the salad dressing insert 16 to the chamber 24 of the cover 14.
Another embodiment of the assembly method includes filing the salad dressing insert 16 with salad dressing and sealing the opening 91 of the insert 16. As discussed above, a screw-fitting cap 84 can additionally be placed over the seal 20 for additional protection. In this way, the dressing insert package 16 can be prepared by way of portion packaging, allowing a vendor to easily provide and a user to select from a variety of salad dressings for any given salad.
While the above embodiments are described as pertaining to salad and salad dressing, it should be readily apparent that the inventive concept herein is adaptable to other food products that would benefit from uniform coating of a fluid from a discrete portion packaged fluid source. For example, the invention could be adapted for a food service to provide a variety of real-time, consumer selectable, portion packaged barbeque sauces for chicken wings.
Although specific embodiments of the invention have been described herein, it is understood by those skilled in the art that many other modifications and embodiments of the invention will come to mind to which the invention pertains, having benefit of the teaching presented in the foregoing description and associated drawings. It is therefore understood that the invention is not limited to the specific embodiments disclosed herein, and that many modifications and other embodiments of the invention are intended to be included within the scope of the invention. Moreover, although specific terms are employed herein, they are used only in generic and descriptive sense, and not for the purposes of limiting the description invention.