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Publication numberUS20060185990 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/344,532
Publication dateAug 24, 2006
Filing dateFeb 1, 2006
Priority dateFeb 1, 2005
Also published asWO2006083871A2, WO2006083871A3
Publication number11344532, 344532, US 2006/0185990 A1, US 2006/185990 A1, US 20060185990 A1, US 20060185990A1, US 2006185990 A1, US 2006185990A1, US-A1-20060185990, US-A1-2006185990, US2006/0185990A1, US2006/185990A1, US20060185990 A1, US20060185990A1, US2006185990 A1, US2006185990A1
InventorsThomas Rybar, Susan Michaeli, Francisco Fuentes
Original AssigneeThomas Rybar, Michaeli Susan R, Francisco Fuentes
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Limited use-disposable salad container assembly
US 20060185990 A1
Abstract
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.
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Claims(11)
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 claim 2 wherein said puncturing mechanism includes an elongated shaft mounted on a dispensing disk disposed proximally to the seal where said mechanism is pivotable upon application of pressure to the deformable, flexible top.
4. The salad container assembly of claim 3 where the dispensing opening is a cylindrical neck and further including a collar disposed around neck and a hinge tab connecting the collar to the dispensing disk.
5. The salad container assembly of claim 4 where the hinge tab retains the dispensing disk and shaft from falling into said base.
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 claim 6 further comprising a robust cap for attaching to said cylindrical neck and covering said puncturable seal.
8. The food product dispenser of claim 7 wherein said puncturing mechanism includes an elongated shaft mounted on a dispensing disk disposed proximally to said seal wherein said mechanism is pivotable upon application of pressure to said deformable, flexible top.
9. The food product dispenser of claim 8 further including a collar disposed around said neck and a hinge tab connecting said collar to said dispensing disk.
10. The food product dispenser of claim 9 wherein said hinge tab retains said dispensing disk and shaft from falling into said base.
11. A method for using a salad container assembly as recited in claim 2, comprising the steps of:
a) affixing the salad dressing insert package to said cover,
b) depressing said flexible top,
c) puncturing said seal, and
d) releasing the fluid.
Description
I. RELATED APPLICATIONS

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.

II. FIELD OF THE INVENTION

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.

III. BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

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.

IV. SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

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.

V. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a side view of a prior salad container assembly embodied in U.S. Pat. No. 6,302,268.

FIG. 2 is a top view of the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 3-3 of FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3 showing the cap separated from the insert.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a ribbed cover embodiment for a disposable salad container contemplated for use in connection with the present invention.

FIG. 6 is an assembly view of an embodiment of a disposable salad container assembly contemplated for use in connection with the present invention.

FIG. 7 is a side view of the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 6.

FIG. 8 is a front view of a threaded salad dressing insert according to one aspect of the present invention.

FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view of the insert embodiment illustrated in FIG. 8.

FIG. 10 is a cross-sectional assembly view of a container base and cover adapted for use with the threaded insert of FIG. 8.

FIG. 11 is a photographic perspective view of the invention embodiment contemplated by FIGS. 8-10 and formed from substantially transparent material.

FIG. 12 is a photographic perspective assembly view of a salad dressing insert in accordance with a further embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 13 is a photographic side view of the assembled embodiment illustrated in FIG. 12.

FIG. 14 is a photographic bottom perspective view of the assembled embodiment of FIGS. 12 and 13.

FIG. 15 is a photographic side assembly view of still another embodiment of a salad dressing insert package according to the invention.

FIG. 16 is a photographic top perspective assembly view of the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 15.

FIG. 17 is a photographic side view of the assembled embodiment of FIGS. 15 and 16.

FIG. 18 is a photographic side assembly view of a further variation of the inventive salad dressing insert package according to the present invention.

FIG. 19 is a side photographic view of an embodiment made of opaque material.

FIG. 20 is a perspective view of a variation of the container cover according to another aspect of the invention where the chamber does not include a side wall.

VI. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

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 FIGS. 7, 11 and 19 comprises a relatively lightweight, limited/single-use, disposable salad container assembly featuring a container base 12, a cover 14, and a hermetically-sealed, portion packaged, salad dressing container insert 16. The insert 16 is dimensioned to seat within the cover 14 and in the illustrated embodiment, is affixable within a nesting, open chamber 24. Both the cover 14 and the insert 16 have aligned openings allowing for fluid communication with the interior of container base 12. The insert 16 preferably is hermetically sealed with a thin metallized plastic sheet 80 as illustrated, particularly in FIGS. 15 and 18. The insert 16 has a deformable, flexible top 38 and a puncture mechanism 82 to open the seal 20. The puncture mechanism 82 includes a shaft 72 running through the center of the insert 16. When the flexible top 38 of the insert 16 is depressed 78, it bears upon the shaft 72, which presses on and breaks the seal 20 over the opening 91 of the insert 16. This allows salad dressing contained within the insert 16 to flow into the container base 12.

In the embodiment depicted in FIGS. 8-11, the cover 14 is generally dome-shaped and includes a annular rim 29 disposed about the lower periphery of the cover 14 and is complementarily dimensioned to frictionally seal on and engage the upper edge/rim 35 of the container base 12. More particularly, the rim 35 of the base 12 cooperate to form an effective snap-fit which prevents the cover 14 from being dislodged accidentally from the base 12. This configuration allows the cover 14 to be engaged quickly onto the base 12 and also enables a user to quickly and easily remove the cover 14. However, any appropriate attachment mechanism, e.g., cooperating threading, mating press fit lugs and the like can be employed and not depart from the invention described herein.

The cover 14 has a hollow chamber 24 dimensioned to receive and frictionally retain the salad dressing insert 16. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 6, the chamber 24 has a solid side wall 46, is conical with an inwardly directed opening 92 at its lower end. The chamber 24 can have other configurations as, for example, incorporating a plurality of co-acting, circularly disposed, radially directed inward, ribs 90 for engaging the cylindrical portion 50 of the insert 16. The chamber 24 can also have no side wall 46 (FIG. 20), with the insert 16 engaging the cover 14 at the upper edge 89 of the chamber 24. Furthermore, the invention is not intended to be limited to the insertion of the insert package onto the top of the salad container. A complementary opening for receiving the insert package 16, analogous to the chamber 24, may be established, for example, along the side of the container base 12.

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 FIGS. 8, 9, 13, 14, and 15 the insert 16 contains screw threads 48 at the upper end 58 of the cylindrical portion 50 of the insert 16. The screw threads 48 engage threads 52 in the chamber 24 of the cover 14. FIG. 10 illustrates a thread 52 in the chamber 24 designed to retain the insert 16. In FIG. 18 a further embodiment of the invention is illustrated. In this embodiment, the snap/interference fit between the cover and the insert package is established by an annular snap-fit notch 60 medially located on a perpendicular axis to the intended vector of deformation (pressing on the flexible top) of the insert 16 and attach to the cover 14 at the upper edge 89 of the chamber 24.

In another embodiment, illustrated in FIGS. 15-18, the seal 20 is made of aluminum or plastic 80 and is protected by a cap 84. The cap 84 is removably affixed for example by snap fit or screwing by inter-engagement of cooperating treads 86 on the seal puncturing mechanism 82. In use, the cap 84 employed to minimize damage or accidental puncturing of the seal but is readily removed from the insert 16 prior to its attachment to the cover 14. This provides protection for the seal 20 on the insert 16 prior to nesting the insert 16 into the cover 14.

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 FIG. 18, the lower edge of the insert 16 incorporates a lip 56 which snap-fits into the support collar 93 of the puncture mechanism 82. The seal 20 is attached to the circular support 93. In FIGS. 15-18, a cap 84 is then affixed to the collar 93 over the seal 20 by threading/snap fit.

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.

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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7810661 *Sep 18, 2007Oct 12, 2010Amy MurphyBaby formula travel bottle
US8020696 *Nov 10, 2009Sep 20, 2011Ernest J KimDevice and method for storing and mixing at least two materials
US8496983Sep 23, 2008Jul 30, 2013Guateplast S.A.Combined particulate solid and liquid container and method of using same
US20110147240 *May 3, 2010Jun 23, 2011Kim Ernest JDevice and Method for Storing and Dispensing
WO2009022920A1 *Aug 12, 2008Feb 19, 2009Ashley Francis BerrysmithPackaging
WO2011075360A1 *Dec 8, 2010Jun 23, 2011Kim Ernest JDevice and method for storing and dispensing
WO2012090052A1 *Dec 23, 2011Jul 5, 2012Preziosi Food S.R.L.Container for food products
Classifications
U.S. Classification206/219
International ClassificationB65D25/08
Cooperative ClassificationB65D81/3211, B65D51/2878, B65D81/3222
European ClassificationB65D51/28B2B, B65D81/32C1, B65D81/32B1