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United States Patent Application 20170190498
Kind Code A1
Walsh; Michael J. ;   et al. July 6, 2017

Food Container with Absorbent Bottom

Abstract

A tray for supporting food products that exude liquid. The tray (12) includes a bottom panel (20) and side walls defining a liquid collection space (34). A plurality of upwardly extending protrusions (42) are positioned in a pattern across and along the bottom panel. A liquid absorbent pad (18) is positioned in the liquid collection space and has seams (47) that match the pattern of the upwardly extending protrusions, so the protrusions of the tray support the seams of the absorbent pad over the bottom wall of the collection space.


Inventors: Walsh; Michael J.; (Atlanta, GA) ; Johnston; Michael A.; (Marietta, GA) ; Gautreaux; Thomas P.; (Jonesboro, GA)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

Walsh; Michael J.
Johnston; Michael A.
Gautreaux; Thomas P.

Atlanta
Marietta
Jonesboro

GA
GA
GA

US
US
US
Family ID: 1000001767503
Appl. No.: 14/983739
Filed: December 30, 2015


Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: B65D 81/265 20130101
International Class: B65D 81/26 20060101 B65D081/26

Claims



1. A container for liquid exuding food products comprising: a tray, said tray including a bottom panel and a raised perimeter rim surrounding said bottom panel and forming a collection space over said bottom panel, a sloped perimeter wall extending from about said raised perimeter rim and sloped upwardly from said raised perimeter rim and forming with said bottom panel a basin for receiving liquids, a side wall structure including a lower portion connected to said sloped perimeter wall and extending upwardly from said sloped perimeter wall and including an upper portion, a rim extending outwardly from said upper portion of said side wall, a plurality of grooves extending continuously down through said side wall, said sloped perimeter wall and said raised perimeter rim and in communication with said collection space, said grooves facing inwardly of said tray and forming drains for liquids in said tray to pass to the collection space, a plurality of protrusions formed in the bottom panel and extending upwardly from the bottom panel and spaced from one another and forming between them an array of liquid collection spaces, an absorbent pad positioned in the tray on the bottom panel, the absorbent pad including an upper sheet, a middle sheet and a lower sheet, seams connecting the upper sheet, middle sheet and the lower sheet and forming an array of pillows positioned in the liquid collection spaces, the perimeter seams of the pad match the raised perimeter rim of the tray and the perimeter seams of the pad are adhered to the raised perimeter rim, liquid absorbent material positioned between the middle sheet and the lower sheet in the pillows of the array of pillows formed in the absorbent pad, the pillows defining openings for the passage of liquid into the pillows.

2. The container of claim 1, and further including liquid exuding food products in said tray and resting on said absorbent material, and a sheet mounted to said rim and closing said tray.

3. A container for liquid exuding food products comprising: a tray, said tray including a bottom panel for supporting liquid exuding food products, a side wall extending upwardly from said bottom panel surrounding said bottom panel and forming a liquid collection space over said bottom panel, protrusions extending upwardly from the bottom panel in a pattern, and an absorbent pad having seams extending there through that are formed in a pattern that matches the pattern of the protrusions.

4. The container of claim 3, and wherein the seams of the absorbent pad are heat sealed to the protrusions of the bottom panel.

5. The container of claim 4, and wherein the pad is heat sealed to the raised perimeter rim.

6. The container of claim 3 and wherein said pad forms a false bottom over said bottom panel.

7. The container of claim 4, and wherein said absorbent pad material comprises a pad with opposed bottom, middle and top surfaces, with the bottom and middle surface comprising porous material facing said bottom panel and the top surface formed of a perforated sheet.

8. The container of claim 6, and further including liquid exuding food products in said tray and resting on said absorbent pad, and a lidding film closing said tray.

9. A container for liquid bearing food products comprising: a tray including a bottom panel defining a liquid collection space, a side wall structure extending upwardly from said bottom panel, plurality of protrusions extending upwardly from the bottom panel and spaced from one another and forming between them an array of liquid collection spaces, a liquid absorbent pad for positioning in said liquid collection space, said liquid absorbent pad including seams that are formed in a pattern that matches the protrusions of the bottom wall and sized to support the liquid absorbent pad on the protrusions of the bottom panel.

10. The container of claim 9, wherein said liquid absorbent material is characterized by swelling in volume when contacted by liquid and urging said liquid impervious top sheet upwardly.

11. The container of claim 10, wherein said absorbent material comprises CMC, bentonite and aluminum potassium sulfate, said liquid porous bottom and middle sheets are formed from PET/PE, and said liquid impervious top sheet is formed from PET/PE.

12. A container for supporting food products that exude liquid comprising a tray including a side wall structure and a bottom panel defining a liquid collection space, the bottom panel including a plurality of upwardly extending protrusions positioned in a pattern extending across and along the bottom panel, a liquid absorbent pad in said liquid collection space configured to support the food products, the liquid absorbent pad defining seams that match the pattern of the upwardly extending protrusions, the seams of the liquid absorbent pad supported by the upwardly extending protrusions.

13. The container of claim 12, and further including a plurality of upright grooves formed in the side wall structure that face inwardly of the tray and form liquid channels for draining liquid exuded from the food products downwardly to the bottom panel of the tray where the liquid can be absorbed through the bottom of the liquid absorbent pad.

14. The container of claim 13, further including a liquid bearing food product in said tray resting on said liquid impervious upper sheet of said liquid absorbent pad, and a sheet applied to the side wall structure extending over said liquid bearing product.
Description



FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention concerns portable containers for storing and displaying foods and other products that bear liquids that are likely to be exuded from the products during storage. Generally, the container includes a tray with an absorbent pad heat sealed on the bottom panel of the tray so that the liquid exuded from the products is absorbed by the absorbent pad and is displaced from the food products. A transparent film is adhered to the upper rim of the tray for closing the products in the tray and allowing the customers to view the contained products before purchasing or eating the products. The tray is suitable for storing food products such as meats, seafood and fresh cut produce.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Excess moisture within food storage containers can cause premature spoilage of food products that are stored in the container. The moisture exuded from food products in a container and that remains in contact with the food provides a favorable environment for the undesirable growth and reproduction of microorganisms. Excess moisture in a food storage container also can lead to leakage of fluids from the storage container which can cause contamination of other foods and items about the container.

[0003] Attempts at controlling excess moisture in food storage containers, such as trays, both rigid and flexible, and bags, have met with some success. These prior art devices include pre-formed trays or bags configured for the insertion of absorbent material such as absorbent pads or absorbent sheets which are glued or otherwise temporarily attached to the trays with the food products resting on the absorbent material. When the food product is removed from the pre-formed tray, the absorbent pad is often removed with it, causing an undesirable foreign object in the food product. This happens more often when meats or seafoods are frozen and subsequently thawed prior to consumption.

[0004] The trays with built-in reservoirs on the bottom panel are arranged to trap excess moisture exuded from the products, with some of the trays including a porous cover over the reservoirs that allows fluids to drain from the products through the cover into the reservoir but which resists the fluids from reemerging past the cover following shaking or movement of the tray. The porous cover used does not hide the excess fluids such as excess blood and leads to an unattractive presentation of the food products.

[0005] An absorbent tray as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 9,073,688 which is a small "mini" container has been developed for holding small portions of a plurality of liquid exuding food items that are ready for immediate consumption. The mini container includes a tray for receiving and supporting the food items. The tray includes a bottom panel and a side wall sloped upwardly from the bottom panel of the tray to a raised perimeter rim. An absorbent pad is positioned on the bottom panel of the tray for absorbing liquids that move downwardly by gravity from the food items.

[0006] The absorbent pad includes a top surface that is liquid impervious and preferably is slightly dome shaped. The liquid moves by gravity from the food items to the pad and then moves laterally across the impervious top surface of the pad and over the side of the pad to drain into the bottom panel of the tray.

[0007] The bottom surface of the absorbent pad that rests on the bottom panel of the tray assumes the substantially flat shape of the bottom panel and tends to absorb the liquid drained from the food items and the top surface of the absorbent pad.

[0008] When a larger container is made in the shape of the small container described above to contain more food items, the width and/or the length of the container and its pad must be increased to keep the food items dry. There is a tendency for the weight and shape of the food items supported on the top surface of the pad to make recesses in the top surface of the pad that tend to retain the food items in pools of the liquid exuded from the food items.

[0009] The "pooling" of the exuded liquids on the top of the pad in contact with the food items tends to result in more rapid deterioration of the food items and defeats the purpose of the absorbent pad.

[0010] Therefore, there exists a need for devices and methods that address these and other shortcomings of the prior art. The invention disclosed herein provides an improved food storage container for liquid exuding items such as meats, seafood and fresh cut produce.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0011] Briefly described, the present invention concerns a container for liquid exuding food products that includes a tray with a bottom panel for resting on a horizontal or sloped surface, and a raised perimeter rim oriented parallel to the bottom panel and surrounding the bottom panel. Side walls extend upwardly from the bottom panel to the raised perimeter rim. Parallel grooves may be formed in the side walls and face inwardly toward the interior of the container and extend downwardly from the raised perimeter rim to the bottom panel. The grooves form drains for liquids in the tray, to pass the liquids from the side wall to the bottom panel of the tray.

[0012] An absorbent material is heat sealed on the bottom panel of the tray for absorbing liquids moved from the liquid exuding food products in the container downwardly by gravity to the bottom panel.

[0013] The absorbent material may be an absorbent pad with opposed top sheets, middle sheets and bottom sheets, and interior absorbent material positioned between the middle sheets and the bottom sheets. The bottom sheet of the pad may be a sheet of open weave or other porous material that will pass liquid on the bottom wall of the container to the absorbent material. The middle sheet of the pad may be a sheet of open weave or other porous material that will pass liquid on the top wall of the absorbent pad to the absorbent material. The top sheet of the pad may be a strong liquid impervious material that, together with the middle sheet, supports the food items and avoids physical contact between the food items resting on the absorbent pad and the absorbent material. The top sheet includes a plurality of small spaced openings there through that allow the migration of liquid from the food items supported by the pad into the interior absorbent material. The absorbent pad forms a false bottom over the bottom panel of the container.

[0014] An impervious transparent lidding film may be mounted to the rim of the tray to close the tray about the food products.

[0015] The food products contained in the tray may be, for example, meats, seafood and fresh cut fruits or vegetables or other products that exude liquid, and the tray and/or the lidding film may be transparent to display the food products.

[0016] Other features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent upon reading the following specification, when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0017] FIG. 1 is a top plan view of the tray.

[0018] FIG. 2 is a side cross sectional view of the container that includes the tray, the liquid exuding products positioned in the tray, and the impervious film applied over the product and attached to the perimeter rim of the side wall of the tray.

[0019] FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the tray showing the bottom wall.

[0020] FIG. 4 is a side view of the tray.

[0021] FIG. 5 is a top view of the tray with the absorbent pad positioned on the bottom wall of the tray.

[0022] FIG. 6 is a bottom view of the absorbent pad.

[0023] FIG. 7 is an expanded perspective view of a corner of the tray.

[0024] FIG. 8 is a cross sectional view of the absorbent pad and the tray.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0025] Referring now to the drawings wherein like reference numbers designate like parts throughout the several views, FIGS. 1-4 show a container 10 that includes the tray 12 for resting on a surface 13, and liquid exuding food products 14 and 15 in the tray. A film 16 is extended over the food products 14 and 15 and is attached at its edges to upper perimeter rim 25 of the tray.

[0026] As shown in FIGS. 2, 7 and 8, a liquid absorbent pad 18, is applied to the bottom panel 20 of the tray. An example of the liquid absorbent material in the pad is CMC, Bentonite and aluminum potassium sulfate, and an example of the film 16 that extends over the top of the container is polyester film with polyethylene sealant layer.

[0027] As shown in FIGS. 1-3, the tray 10 includes a bottom panel 20 that is substantially flat and forms the lowermost portion of the tray 12 for resting on the tray bottom surface 13. In this embodiment, the bottom panel 20 and the following described side wall structure 19 and perimeter rim 25 are formed in the configuration of a rectangle, with side walls longer than the end walls. However, the tray may be formed in other shapes.

[0028] As shown in FIGS. 6 and 7, the side wall structure 19 of the four sides of the tray include a raised perimeter rim 21 that is joined by step 23 (FIG. 8) to bottom panel 20 and the raised perimeter rim 21 is displaced upwardly from the level of the bottom panel and is, in this embodiment, parallel to the bottom panel. A sloped perimeter wall 22 is joined to the outer edge of the raised perimeter rim 21 and larger sloped side wall 24 extends upwardly from the upper edge of the sloped perimeter wall 22 and joins the upper perimeter rim 25. As shown in FIG. 7, upper perimeter rim 25 extends horizontally about the tray and is flat for engagement by the film 16 of FIG. 2.

[0029] A plurality of groups of parallel grooves such as grooves 27A-27C of FIG. 7 are formed in the side wall structures 19 of the tray 12, extending upwardly through step 23, raised perimeter rim 21, sloped perimeter wall 22, sloped side wall 24, and intersecting upper perimeter rim 25. The groups of parallel grooves are illustrated individually as being three grooves 27A, 27B and 27C, but the sidewall may include more or fewer grooves than those shown in the drawings. The concave surfaces of the grooves face inwardly of the side wall structure and the convex exterior surfaces of the grooves protrude outwardly and form a plurality of groups 28 of parallel ribs. The exterior ribs 28 form a strong side wall structure of the container, while the interior grooves 27 form drains for liquids moving under the influence of gravity down into the confines of the tray, toward the bottom panel 20.

[0030] The bottom panel 20 and the step 23 form a liquid collection space 34. The grooves open through step 23 onto the upwardly facing surface of the bottom panel 20. This forms open drains all the way from the upper perimeter rim 25 to the bottom panel 20, where the liquid tends to accumulate in the liquid collection space 34.

[0031] As shown in FIGS. 2, 7 and 8, the liquid absorbent pad 18 provides a false bottom in the tray and includes a liquid impervious upper sheet 30A, a porous middle sheet 30B, a porous bottom sheet 31, and an absorbent material 32 positioned between the sheets 30B and 31. The edges of the three sheets 30A, 30B, and 31 are heat sealed together to form a heat sealed rim 35 that retains the absorbent material in place between the middle and lower sheets.

[0032] The impervious upper sheet 30A of the absorbent pad 18 may be formed of PET/polyester with PE layer and shields the food products from contacting the absorbent material in the pad. The porous middle sheet 30B may be formed of PET/PE fabric and retains the absorbent material between the middle and lower sheets. The porous bottom sheet 31 may be formed of PET/PE fabric and rests on the recessed bottom panel 20 of the tray in the liquid collection space 34. Other materials may be used for forming the absorbent pad.

[0033] The upper sheet 30A faces and supports the collection of liquid exuding products 14 and 15, and FIG. 7 shows that lower sheet 31 of the absorbent pad faces the bottom panel 20 of the tray 12. Upper sheet 30A may be formed of impervious material that is strong enough to resist rupturing or other deterioration by the liquid exuding products 14, 15 but is perforated with a plurality of openings 40, with the openings uniformly spaced apart to receive the liquid over substantially the entire surface of the absorbent pad. This forms a porous sheet that is positioned to receive the liquid exuded from the liquid exuding products. The upper sheet may be formed of PET/polyester with PE layer.

[0034] Liquids that leak from the food products positioned in the tray tend to move downwardly under the influence of gravity toward the upper sheet 30A and middle sheet 30B of the absorbent pad 18 and the collection space 34 formed by the bottom panel 20 and the step 23.

[0035] In general, some of the liquid exuded from the food products 14 and 15 tends to reach the plurality of groups of parallel grooves 27 that face inwardly of the tray 12, providing channels that communicate around the liquid impervious upper sheet 30A, leading the liquid to the liquid collection space 34 below the liquid absorbent pad where the liquid is permitted to pass through the porous bottom sheet of the liquid absorbent pad 18, reaching the absorbent material 32 in the liquid absorbent pad 18. The absorbent material tends to hold the liquid in position at the bottom panel 20.

[0036] The liquid absorbent pad 18 may be affixed at its perimeter hem 35 to the raised perimeter rim 21 as shown in FIGS. 7 and 8 with a heat fusion connection 36, leaving the liquid that drains downwardly through the inwardly facing grooves 27. This connection of the liquid absorbent pad to the bottom of the tray 12 assures that the liquid from the grooves 27 reaches the collection space 34 and the absorbent material in the collection space.

[0037] As shown in FIGS. 1-3, a plurality of protrusions 42 are formed in the bottom panel 20 of the tray 12 and extend inwardly from the bottom panel and are spaced from one another. The bottom panel protrusions may be formed in lines and the lines may cross one another. The protrusions form between them an array of liquid collection spaces 44. The spaces between the protrusions allow the liquid to move between adjacent spaces.

[0038] As shown in FIG. 8, the absorbent pad 18 has a perforated upper sheet 30A, a porous middle sheet 30B, and a porous lower sheet 31, and as shown in FIGS. 5 and 6, the liquid absorbent pad 18 is formed with an array of seams 47 connecting the upper sheet, the middle sheet, and the lower sheet. The seams form a pattern of pockets 48 to be positioned in the liquid collection spaces of the tray 12. The seams 47 between the pockets are arranged in a pattern that matches the pattern of the protrusions 42 of the bottom panel of the tray. The seams between the pockets 48 are adhered to the protrusions formed in the bottom panel of the tray by heat sealing, by pressing a hot tool against the seams of the pad, or by other means. Also, the difference in thickness of the seams and pockets tends to hold the absorbent pad in position in the container. Also, the seams leave small passages between the bottom wall protrusions 41 of the tray so the liquid beneath the pad may drift toward adjacent pockets 48 in the liquid absorbent pad 18.

[0039] When the absorbent pad 18 is being placed on the bottom panel of the tray, heat and pressure may be applied to the seams of the pad 18 at the raised perimeter rim 21 and the plurality of protrusions 42 to seal the pad to the bottom wall of the container.

[0040] The liquid absorbent pad is shaped and dimensioned to be compatible with the shape of the bottom panel 20 so that it tends to "sit" into the space of the bottom panel. The heat sealed perimeter hem 35 of the liquid absorbent pad that does not contain the absorbent material is thinner than the central portion of the absorbent pad and tends to overlie the raised perimeter rim that surrounds the bottom panel. This tends to cause the liquid absorbent pad to form a false bottom in the tray that may be bypassed by the liquid headed toward the cavity of the bottom panel where the liquid will be absorbed through the porous bottom sheet 31 into the absorbent material 32.

[0041] As shown in FIG. 8, the absorbent material 32 of the liquid absorbent pad 18 absorbs liquid 41 exuded from the food items in the container, and the absorbent material 32 tends to swell to a larger vertical thickness, eventually forming the liquid impervious but perforated upper sheet 30A into more of a dome shape 39. The dome shape helps to reduce any tendency of the liquid impervious upper sheet "pooling" and trapping the liquid on the top of the liquid absorbent pad.

[0042] The food products can be formed in one relatively large piece that fits snugly in the tray 12. However, the food products may be sliced into geometrical shapes that are more "bite sized", such as rectangular shapes with several of the food products being inserted downwardly into the confines of the tray 12. For example, large fruits such as watermelon, cantaloupe and others that can be formed into specific shapes may be inserted downwardly into the tray. Also, items such as ground meat and seafood portions may be placed in the container.

[0043] The foregoing described container 10 may be in various sizes, but particularly in sizes such as 81/2 inches by 61/2 inches across the top of the upper perimeter rim 25 and one to three inches deep. The shape of the container may be varied to be higher, rectangular, or even in circular or oval shapes.

[0044] Although preferred embodiments of the invention have been disclosed in detail herein, it will be obvious to those skilled in the art that variations and modifications of the disclosed embodiments can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as set forth in the following claims.

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