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United States Patent Application 20170305587
Kind Code A1
Cortes; Miguel ;   et al. October 26, 2017

POUCH RESIDUAL AIR REDUCTION DEVICE

Abstract

The present disclosure relates to removing residual air in a packaged product. In particular, the present disclosure is directed to a residual air reduction device and to methods of using such device to reduce the amount of residual air in a packaged product. Such a device is employed during the manufacturing process to release air trapped in a product matrix and/or in a head space of the package as the package contacts the device. In some embodiments, the device and methods of the disclosure are useful in reducing residual air in a pouch package by at least 5% in comparison to a pouch package manufactured without use of the device and/or methods described herein.


Inventors: Cortes; Miguel; (McLean, VA) ; Fernandez; Luis Jorge Niembro; (McLean, VA)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

Mars, Incorporated

McLean

VA

US
Assignee: Mars, Incorporated
McLean
VA

Family ID: 1000002636018
Appl. No.: 15/502454
Filed: August 8, 2015
PCT Filed: August 8, 2015
PCT NO: PCT/US2015/044381
371 Date: February 7, 2017


Related U.S. Patent Documents

Application NumberFiling DatePatent Number
62035232Aug 8, 2014

Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: B65B 31/04 20130101; B65B 43/42 20130101; B65B 7/02 20130101; B65D 81/20 20130101; B65B 3/04 20130101
International Class: B65B 31/04 20060101 B65B031/04; B65B 43/42 20060101 B65B043/42; B65B 7/02 20060101 B65B007/02; B65D 81/20 20060101 B65D081/20; B65B 3/04 20060101 B65B003/04

Claims



1. A residual air reduction device for reducing the amount of air in a package, comprising: a. a bump surface having a first end section and a second end section; b. a first alignment side connected to the first end section of the bump surface; c. a second alignment side, wherein the second alignment side is connected to the second end section of the bump surface; d. a third alignment side, wherein the third alignment side connects the second alignment side to another alignment side that is not the first or second alignment side; e. a bump angle defined as the angle formed between a line perpendicular to the first alignment side and a line parallel to the second alignment side, wherein the bump angle ranges from 25.degree. to 65.degree.; and f. an attachment device, wherein the attachment device allows attachment of the residual air reduction device to manufacturing equipment.

2. The residual air reduction device of claim 1, wherein the bump angle is selected from 30.degree., 45.degree., or 60.degree..

3. The residual air reduction device of claim 1, wherein the first alignment side has a length ranging from 30 mm to 80 mm.

4. The residual air reduction device of claim 1, wherein the second alignment side has a length less than the length of the first alignment side.

5. The residual air reduction device of claim 1, further comprising a fourth alignment side connecting the third alignment side with the first alignment side.

6. A method of reducing residual air in a package comprising the steps of: a. at least partially filling the package with product; b. contacting the package with a first residual air reducing device to remove at least some of the air trapped in the product matrix and/or located in the head space of the package; and c. at least partially sealing the pouch package.

7. The method of claim 6, further comprising the step of at least partially opening the package prior to filling the package with product.

8. The method of claim 6, wherein said package is a pouch.

9. The method of claim 6, wherein air trapped in the product matrix and air located in the headspace of the package is removed by contacting the package with a first air reducing device.

10. The method of claim 6, wherein the package is completely sealed.

11. The method of claim 6, wherein the residual air remaining in the pouch package is at least 3 cc less than the residual air remaining in a pouch package that has not contacted a residual air reducing device but has undergone steps a and c.

12. The method of claim 6, wherein the residual air remaining in the pouch package is at least 5% less than the residual air remaining in a pouch package that has not contacted a residual air reducing device but has undergone steps a and c.

13. The method of claim 6, further comprising the step of removing additional residual air from the head space of the package.

14. The method of claim 13, wherein the removal of the additional residual air located in the head space of the package is by steam injection.

15. The method of claim 13, wherein the residual air remaining in the pouch package is at least 3 cc less than the residual air remaining in a pouch package that has not contacted a residual air reducing device but has undergone steps a and c.

16. The method of claim 6, further comprising contacting the pouch package with a second residual air reducing device.

17. The method of claim 16, wherein the second residual air reducing device is positioned such that the contacting with the second residual air reducing device occurs sequentially after contacting the first residual air reducing device.

18-19. (canceled)

20. The residual air reduction device of claim 1, wherein the bump angle is 30.degree..

21. The method of claim 6, wherein the contacting of the first residual air reducing device occurs along the bottom third of a pouch package.

22. The method of claim 16, wherein the contacting of the second residual air reducing device occurs along the bottom third of a pouch package.

23-31. (canceled)
Description



RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims priority to U.S. Patent App. Ser. No. 62/035,232, entitled Pouch Residual Air Reduction Device, filed on Aug. 8, 2014, the entire contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] The present disclosure relates to the field of manufacturing pouch packaged products. More particularly, the disclosure relates to methods and devices useful for reducing residual air in a pouch product during the manufacturing process.

BACKGROUND

[0003] The manufacture of products that are packaged in pouch type packaging requires the control of several parameters to achieve quality attributes of the finished product delivered to consumers. One of the most critical parameters is residual air in the pouch after final sealing. Residual air can impact product appearance such that consumers perceive the product as spoiled. For example, residual air can change the color of the brown chunk surface of a pet food product to gray or green. This product appearance detriment is the result of oxidation reactions initiated by the presence of oxygen within the pouch that was not removed during the manufacturing filling process. For this reason, it is critical to reduce and control residual air contained within each pouch during the filling process.

[0004] In general, the target for residual air in a pouch is less than 10%, more preferably less than 8%, still more preferably, less than 6%, even more preferably, less than 5%, 4%, 3%, 2%, 1%, or 0.5% of the total pouch volume. Thus, in a pouch having a total volume of 100 cc, the residual air would occupy 10 cc, 8 cc, 6 cc, 5 cc, 4 cc, 3 cc, 2 cc, 1 cc, 0.5 cc, or less. Attempts to reduce residual air in a pouch include using mechanical devices such as vibratory or squeezing stations after the filling station. However, reaching a consistent solution through mechanical devices has been very complex. Such attempts are hampered by space restrictions, product design variables, synchronization with and integration in the manufacturing process, and lengthy development and implementation times. The removal of residual air through normal mechanical means is costly, labor intensive, and has limited success.

[0005] Accordingly, a need exists for a means of reducing pouch residual air during the manufacturing process that is easy to integrate and synchronize into various manufacturing processes and is also cost-effective. It is also desired that the means of reducing pouch residual air removes a significant amount of residual air during the manufacturing process.

SUMMARY

[0006] This summary describes several embodiments of the presently-disclosed subject matter, and in many cases lists variations and permutations of these embodiments. This summary is merely exemplary of the numerous and varied embodiments. Mention of one or more representative features of a given embodiment is likewise exemplary. Such an embodiment can typically exist with or without the feature(s) mentioned; likewise, those features can be applied to other embodiments of the presently-disclosed subject matter, whether listed in this summary or not. To avoid excessive repetition, this summary does not list or suggest all possible combinations of features. The present disclosure is directed to apparatus and devices for reducing the residual air during manufacture of pouch packaged products and methods for reducing such air. In particular, the present disclosure is directed to a device and methods of using the device to reduce the residual air in a pouch package. Use of the device of the present disclosure reduces the residual air in a pouch package at least 5%, 6%, 7%, 8%, or 9%, more preferably at least 10%, 11%, 12%, 13%, or 14%, even more preferably at least 15%, 16%, 17%, 18%, or 19%, even more preferably at least 20%, 21%, 22%, 23%, 24%, or 25%, and still more preferably at least 26%, 27%, 28%, 29%, 30%, 31%, 32%, 33%, 34%, 35%, 36%, 37%, 38%, 39%, or 40% compared to pouch packaged products manufactured without using such device. Also, use of the device of the present disclosure reduces final product appearance detriments caused by oxidation prior to consumer use.

[0007] "Residual air" refers to the air remaining in a package, such as a pouch, after the product has been placed, filled, inserted, or deposited in the package and that would remain in the package after the package containing the product was sealed. This air includes air remaining in the head space of a package as well as air that is trapped in the product matrix as either a byproduct of the filling process or as a byproduct of the process of making the product.

[0008] The present disclosure provides devices for reducing the residual air in a pouch package during the manufacturing process. Such devices are preferably employed in-line with the manufacturing process.

[0009] The residual air reducing devices of the present disclosure have a bump surface that contacts the pouch package as the pouch package passes the device during the manufacturing process. The residual air reducing devices also have a plurality of alignment sides. Such alignment sides provide rigidity and stability to the bump surface. In some embodiments, the residual air reducing devices have a plurality of alignment sides. For example, some residual air reducing devices have first, second, and third alignment sides. In some other embodiments, the residual air reducing devices have a first, second, third, and fourth alignment sides. The dimensions of each alignment side depend upon the space in which the residual air reducing device will be employed.

[0010] The residual air reducing devices of the present disclosure include a bump angle. The bump angle refers to the orientation of the bump surface in relation to the first and second alignment sides and can be defined as the angle formed between a line perpendicular to the first alignment side and a line parallel to the second alignment side. Suitable bump angles may range between 10.degree. and 85.degree.. In some aspects, the bump angle is preferably between 15.degree. and 60.degree.. In some aspects, the bump angle is preferably between 25.degree. and 50.degree.. In some aspects, the bump angle is preferably between about 25.degree. and 35.degree., and is preferably about 30.degree.. In another preferred aspect, the bump angle is between 25.degree. and 65.degree.. In another preferred aspect, the bump angle is between about 30.degree. and 45.degree., and is preferably about 40.degree.. Bump angles can be adjusted for different product characteristics. For example, a chunk product in thick gravy might need a higher bump angle than a chunk product in thinner gravy. As can be seen, the bump angle includes a rise, which is the length of the bump surface between the first alignment side and the second alignment side. Suitable rise lengths will depend on the space in which the residual air reducing device will be employed. In general, it will include lengths between 5 mm and 100 mm. In one preferred aspect, the rise length will be less than about 60 mm, and preferably between 30 mm and 60 mm. As with the bump angle, the rise length can vary depending on the characteristics of the product in the pouch. In general, longer rise lengths will be more effective for products with thinner liquids or gravies and shorter rise lengths will be more effective for products with thicker liquids or gravies.

[0011] The residual air reducing devices of the present disclosure may optionally include at least one attachment flange. Such attachment flanges include any means for attaching the residual air reducing device to the manufacturing line. In some embodiments, the flange will be a groove through which a plank will be seated. The plank can be a portion of the manufacturing line or can be attached to the manufacturing line for the purpose of being inserted into the groove. In other embodiments, the flange will provide an attachment surface that extends beyond one or more alignment sides and connects with the manufacturing line. The attachment surface can then be secured to the manufacturing line using conventional methods and fasteners.

[0012] The present disclosure also provides methods of reducing residual air in a pouch package using the devices described herein. Suitable methods include employing at least one device of the present disclosure in the manufacturing line of a pouch packaged product. As the pouch passes by the devices described herein during the course of proceeding down the manufacturing line, residual air is urged out of the pouch by contacting the device.

[0013] Methods of the present disclosure provide reducing residual air in a pouch package by contacting the package with a device of the present disclosure at a specific contact point. Suitable contact points include the portion of the package containing the product such that air trapped in the product is released into the head space of the package. Suitable contact points may also include those points that result in displacing the air contained in the head space.

[0014] Further methods of the present disclosure provide reducing residual air in a package, such as a pouch package, by at least partially opening a package. Generally this can be done by separating a first portion of the package from a second portion of the package in order to at least partially expose the inner part of the package such that it is able to receive product. Multiple ways of opening various types of packages are known in the art and incorporated herein. For example, a pouch package may be opened by inserting a nozzle into the top of the pouch and injecting air therein in order to separate the sides of the package from one another. A desired amount of product is inserted, deposited, placed, or injected into the opened pouch package in order to at least partially fill the package. As can be understood, the amount of product inserted into the package can vary by intentional design, but it is understood that the package can be filled to any percentage of the total volume of the package including 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, 95, 100, or any percentage therebetween. The package is then contacted with a first residual air reducing device to remove at least some of the air therein prior to sealing the package. Any amount of air can be removed from the package, as described herein. In some preferred forms, the package will also contact at least one more residual air reducing devices. As is known in the art, the package can either be partially or completely sealed after the product has been inserted therein and the package has contacted at least one residual air reducing device. The amount of sealing can vary as desired. In some preferred forms, the package will be completely sealed, but in others, some amount, such as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50% or more, of the package may not be sealed.

[0015] Various objects and advantages of this process and its compositions will become apparent from the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings which set forth, by way of illustration and example, certain embodiments of the process and resulting compositions.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0016] The following drawings form part of the present specification and are included to further demonstrate certain aspects of the present disclosure. The disclosure may be better understood by reference to one or more of these drawings in combination with the detailed description of specific embodiments presented herein.

[0017] FIG. 1 shows a top view of the residual air reduction air device of the present disclosure. The bump surface 10, alignment sides 11a, 11b, 11c, and 11d, bump angle 13, attachment flange 12 are shown; and bump top 20;

[0018] FIG. 2 shows drawings of the residual air reduction air device of the present disclosure. FIG. 2A is a top view of the residual air reduction air device of the present disclosure. FIG. 2B is a side view of the residual air reduction air device with a perspective of an attachment slot 14. FIG. 2C is a 3D drawing of the residual air reduction device showing the bump surface 10, alignment sides 11, attachment flange 12, and attachment slot 14;

[0019] FIG. 3 graphically represents the chunk Particle Size Distribution (PSD) into a 100 gram sample for the chunk component of a pouch packaged product. As represented, the sample chunk shape was irregular, discontinuous ropes. The height and width are given by the nozzle (3.times.13 mm) and most of the chunks have a length of 20 mm;

[0020] FIG. 4 shows six residual air reducing devices evaluated for performance; FIG. 4a has first alignment side 11a that is 20 mm in length, a bump 10 having a 60.degree. bump angle over a 17 mm rise, a second alignment side 11b that is 20 mm in length, a third alignment side 11c that is 50 mm in length, and a fourth alignment side 11d that is 37 mm in length; FIG. 4b has first alignment side 11a that is 20 mm in length, a bump 10 having a 45.degree. bump angle over a 30 mm rise, a second alignment side 11b that is 20 mm in length, a third alignment side 11c that is 50 mm in length, and a fourth alignment side 11d that is 50 mm in length; FIG. 4c has first alignment side 11a that is 20 mm in length, a bump 10 having a 30.degree. bump angle over a 52 mm rise, a second alignment side 11b that is 20 mm in length, a third alignment side 11c that is 50 mm in length, and a fourth alignment side 11d that is 72 mm in length; FIG. 4d has first alignment side 11a that is 20 mm in length, a bump 10 having a 60.degree. bump angle over a 30 mm rise, a second alignment side 11b that is 20 mm in length, a third alignment side 11c that is 70 mm in length, and a fourth alignment side 11d that is 50 mm in length; FIG. 4e has first alignment side 11a that is 20 mm in length, a bump 10 having a 30.degree. bump angle over a 30 mm rise, a second alignment side 11b that is 20 mm in length, a third alignment side 11c that is 37 mm in length, and a fourth alignment side 11d that is 50 mm in length; FIG. 4f has first alignment side 11a that is 20 mm in length, a bump 10 having a 30.degree. bump angle over a 52 mm rise, a third alignment side 11c that is 50 mm in length, and a fourth alignment side 11d that is 52 mm in length;

[0021] FIG. 5 graphically illustrates the performance of the devices of FIG. 2 in relation to residual air remaining in the pouch package for 100 pouches evaluated/device shape (50 pouches left/50 pouches right). In order from left to right, the tested devices were a control, the device of FIG. 4a, the device of FIG. 4b, the device of FIG. 4c, the device of FIG. 4e, the device of FIG. 4d, and the device of FIG. 4f;

[0022] FIG. 6 graphically illustrates the performance of one or more devices of FIG. 2 in relation to residual air remaining in the pouch package for 100 pouches evaluated/device shape and number (50 pouches left/50 pouches right). In order from left to right, the tested devices were a control, the device of FIG. 4a, the device of FIG. 4b, the device of FIG. 4c, the device of FIG. 4e, the device of FIG. 4d, two sequentially placed devices of FIG. 4e, the device of FIG. 4f, and two sequentially placed devices of FIG. 4f;

[0023] FIG. 7 graphically illustrates the performance of two sequentially placed devices of FIG. 4e in comparison to one device of FIG. 4e for 100 pouches evaluated/device number (50 pouches left/50 pouches right); and

[0024] FIG. 8 is a drawing of a TT9 machine illustrating the multiple stations present in a pouch-filling process and illustrating a preferred device of the present disclosure.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0025] In accordance with the present disclosure, a device for reducing residual air in a pouch package of a product during manufacturing and methods of using such device have been discovered. In particular, the device of the disclosure provides a means to reduce the residual air in a pouch package with minimal alteration to the manufacturing line or process in place. For example, in some embodiments, a residual air reduction device according to the present disclosure is useful for reducing a residual air content in a package, such as a pouch package, that contains a finished product. In certain embodiments, the reduction of residual air content that is effected by the residual air reduction device of the present disclosure is accomplished prior to sealing the package. Accordingly, use of a residual air reduction device of the present disclosure is effective for reducing the incidence of oxidation of a finished product packaged in a pouch that is contacted at least once, either directly or indirectly, by the residual air reduction device.

[0026] For example, in some embodiments, a residual air reduction device according to the present disclosure is useful for reducing a residual air content in a package, such as a pouch package, that contains a finished product. In certain embodiments, the reduction of residual air content that is effected by the residual air reduction device of the present disclosure is accomplished prior to sealing the package. Accordingly, use of a residual air reduction device of the present disclosure is effective for reducing the incidence of oxidation of a finished product packaged in a pouch that is contacted at least once, either directly or indirectly, by the residual air reduction device.

[0027] The details of one or more embodiments of the presently-disclosed subject matter are set forth in this document. Modifications to embodiments described in this document, and other embodiments, will be evident to those of ordinary skill in the art after a study of the information provided in this document. The information provided in this document, and particularly the specific details of the described exemplary embodiments, is provided primarily for clearness of understanding and no unnecessary limitations are to be understood therefrom. In case of conflict, the specification of this document, including definitions, will control.

[0028] The presently-disclosed subject matter is illustrated by specific but non-limiting examples throughout this description. The examples may include compilations of data that are representative of data gathered at various times during the course of development and experimentation related to the present invention(s). Each example is provided by way of explanation of the present disclosure and is not a limitation thereon. In fact, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various modifications and variations can be made to the teachings of the present disclosure without departing from the scope of the disclosure. For instance, features illustrated or described as part of one embodiment can be used with another embodiment to yield a still further embodiment.

[0029] All references to singular characteristics or limitations of the present disclosure shall include the corresponding plural characteristic(s) or limitation(s) and vice versa, unless otherwise specified or clearly implied to the contrary by the context in which the reference is made.

[0030] All combinations of method or process steps as used herein can be performed in any order, unless otherwise specified or clearly implied to the contrary by the context in which the referenced combination is made.

[0031] While the following terms used herein are believed to be well understood by one of ordinary skill in the art, definitions are set forth to facilitate explanation of the presently-disclosed subject matter.

[0032] Unless defined otherwise, all technical and scientific terms used herein have the same meaning as commonly understood by one of ordinary skill in the art to which the presently-disclosed subject matter belongs. Although any methods, devices, and materials similar or equivalent to those described herein can be used in the practice or testing of the presently-disclosed subject matter, representative methods, devices, and materials are now described.

[0033] Following long-standing patent law convention, the terms "a", "an", and "the" refer to "one or more" when used in this application, including the claims. Thus, for example, reference to "an alignment side" includes a plurality of such alignment sides, and so forth.

[0034] Unless otherwise indicated, all numbers expressing quantities, properties, and so forth used in the specification and claims are to be understood as being modified in all instances by the term "about". Accordingly, unless indicated to the contrary, the numerical parameters set forth in this specification and claims are approximations that can vary depending upon the desired properties sought to be obtained by the presently-disclosed subject matter.

[0035] As used herein, the term "about," when referring to a value or to an amount of mass, weight, time, volume, concentration or percentage is meant to encompass variations of in some embodiments .+-.50%, in some embodiments .+-.40%, in some embodiments .+-.30%, in some embodiments .+-.20%, in some embodiments .+-.10%, in some embodiments .+-.5%, in some embodiments .+-.1%, in some embodiments .+-.0.5%, and in some embodiments .+-.0.1% from the specified amount, as such variations are appropriate to perform the disclosed method.

[0036] As used herein, ranges can be expressed as from "about" one particular value, and/or to "about" another particular value. It is also understood that there are a number of values disclosed herein, and that each value is also herein disclosed as "about" that particular value in addition to the value itself. For example, if the value "10" is disclosed, then "about 10" is also disclosed. It is also understood that each unit between two particular units are also disclosed. For example, if 10 and 15 are disclosed, then 11, 12, 13, and 14 are also disclosed.

[0037] I. Devices

[0038] As shown in FIGS. 1, 2, and 4, the residual air reduction device of the present disclosure includes a first bump surface 10, one or more alignment sides, such as first alignment side 11a, second alignment side 11b, third alignment side 11c, and fourth alignment side 11d, a top 20, and optionally an attachment flange 12. The bump surface 10 contacts the pouch package, either directly or indirectly, as the pouch package passes the device during a manufacturing process. Such contact allows a product contained within the package to settle, thereby releasing air trapped within the product and/or within the product matrix. The contact may also displace a portion of the air in the head space of the pouch.

[0039] At least two of the alignment sides 11a and 11b are adjacent to the bump surface 10 such that a partial rhombus-like and/or a partial rectangular-like shape is formed by the alignment sides 11 and the bump surface 10. The residual air reduction device may have more than one alignment side 11. The residual air reduction device may have 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, or more alignment sides 11. Preferably, the device has 3 or 4 alignment sides 11.

[0040] The residual air reduction device generally includes a first alignment side and a second alignment side. In some embodiments, the first alignment side is adjacent to and/or connected to the bump surface. Likewise, in some embodiments, the second alignment side is adjacent to and/or connected to the bump surface. Accordingly, in certain embodiments, the bump surface is adjacent to one or more of the alignment sides. In some aspects, the bump surface spans between the first and second alignment sides, but in some aspects, the bump surface spans between the first and third alignment sides. The residual air reduction device also generally includes a third alignment side. As noted above, the third alignment side connects the bump surface to an alignment side that is not the second alignment side, or it can connect the second alignment side to one or more additional alignment sides, such as, for example, a third alignment side, a fourth alignment side, a fifth alignment side, a sixth alignment side, a seventh alignment side and/or an eighth alignment side.

[0041] Suitable dimensions of the device are customizable, and a skilled artisan will recognize that the dimensions may vary from those disclosed herein. By way of example, without limitation, suitable alignment side 11 lengths may be between 5 mm and 100 mm or more. In some embodiments, the alignment side 11 length is about 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, 95, 100 mm or more. In some embodiments, each of the alignment sides have a different length. In other embodiments, at least two of the alignment sides have equal lengths. In some preferred forms, the first alignment side 11a and the third alignment 11c side have equal or substantially equal lengths. In other embodiments, the first alignment side 11a is longer than the third alignment side 11c. In other embodiments, the third alignment side 11c is longer than the first alignment side 11a. In some embodiments, the first alignment side 11a is longer than the second alignment side 11b. In some embodiments, the third alignment side 11c is longer than the second alignment side 11b. In some embodiments, the second alignment side 11b and a fourth alignment side 11d have equal lengths. In other embodiments, the second alignment side 11b is longer than a fourth alignment side 11d. In other embodiments, a fourth alignment side 11d is longer than the second alignment side 11b. As can be appreciated, the variation in alignment side lengths is infinite as each can be individually-sized for a particular application.

[0042] In some aspects, the first alignment side 11a is about 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90 mm or more in length. Preferably, the first alignment side 11a is between about 5 mm and 35 mm, more preferably between about 10 mm and 30 mm, still more preferably between about 15 mm and 25 mm, and most preferably about 20 mm in length.

[0043] In some aspects, the bump surface 10 has a length between 5 mm and 100 mm. Preferably, the bump surface has a length between about 10 mm to 65 mm, more preferably between about 15 mm to 58 mm, still more preferably between about 20 mm and 50 mm, and even more preferably between about 25 mm and 42 mm.

[0044] In some aspects, the second alignment side 11b is about 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60 mm or more in length. Preferably, the second alignment side 11b is between 10 mm and 50 mm, more preferably between about 15 mm and 30 mm, and is most preferably about 20 mm in length.

[0045] In some aspects, the third alignment side 11c is between about 5 mm and 100 mm, including all lengths therebetween, more preferably between about 10 mm and 90 mm, still more preferably between about 15 mm and 85 mm, even more preferably between about 20 mm and 80 mm, still more preferably between about 25 mm and 75 mm, even more preferably between about 30 mm and 70 mm, and most preferably between about 40 mm and 60 mm.

[0046] In some embodiments, a fourth alignment side 11d is included in the residual air reduction device. In such embodiments, the fourth alignment side 11d is about 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100 mm or more in length. Preferably, the fourth alignment side 11d is between about 5 mm and 100 mm, more preferably between about 10 mm and 95 mm, still more preferably between about 15 and 90 mm, even more preferably between about 20 and 85 mm, still more preferably between about 25 mm and 80 mm, even more preferably between about 30 mm and 75 mm, and most preferably between about 35 mm and 70 mm.

[0047] The width of the residual air reducing devices of the present disclosure is a width capable of provided a rigid and stable device. Suitable widths provide a device capable of numerous package contacts with little to no wear. Such widths include those ranging from 5 mm to 100 mm. In some aspects the width, or thickness, is about 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100 mm or more in width, or thickness. Preferably, the width, or thickness, ranges from about 10 mm to 80 mm, more preferably between about 15 mm and 70 mm, still more preferably between about 15 mm and 50 mm, and even still more preferably between about 20 mm and 45 mm. In some aspects, the width is preferably about 10 mm, 15 mm, 20 mm, 25 mm, 30 mm, 35 mm, or 40 mm, or between 10 mm and 40 mm, or between 15 mm and 35 mm, or between 20 mm and 35 mm. In some aspects, the width is preferably about 34 mm.

[0048] The residual air reduction device also includes a bump angle 13. The bump angle 13 is the angle formed by the bump surface 10 between a line perpendicular to the termination of the first alignment side 11a at the bump surface 10 and the second alignment side 11b. The bump angle 13 may be customized to control the impact of the pouch package with the bump surface 10, as well as the reduction in residual air. Preferably, the bump angle 13 measures about 15.degree., 20.degree., 25.degree., 30.degree., 35.degree., 40.degree., 45.degree., 50.degree., 55.degree., 60.degree., 65.degree., 70.degree., or 80.degree., or any angle therebetween. In some aspects, the bump angle 13 is about 16.degree., 17.degree., 18.degree., 19.degree., 20.degree., 21.degree., 22.degree., 23.degree., 24.degree., 25.degree., 26.degree., 27.degree., 28.degree., 29.degree., 30.degree., 31.degree., 32.degree., 33.degree., 34.degree., 35.degree., 36.degree., 37.degree., 38.degree., 39.degree., 40.degree., 41.degree., 42.degree., 43.degree., 44.degree., 45.degree., 46.degree., 47.degree., 48.degree., 49.degree., 50.degree., 51.degree., 52.degree., 53.degree., 54.degree., 55.degree., 56.degree., 57.degree., 58.degree., 59.degree., 60.degree., 61.degree., 62.degree., 63.degree., 64.degree., 65.degree., 66.degree., 67.degree., 68.degree., 69.degree., 70.degree., 71.degree., 72.degree., 73.degree., 74.degree., or 75.degree.. In some aspects, the bump angle 13 is between 15.degree. and 60.degree.. In some aspects, the bump angle 13 is between 25.degree. and 50.degree.. In some aspects, the bump angle 13 is preferably between about 25.degree. and 35.degree., and is preferably about 30.degree..

[0049] The residual air reduction device may include an attachment device or attachment means, such as an attachment flange 12, attachment slot or groove 14, or any combination thereof. The attachment device or means is used to attach the device within the manufacturing line. Suitable attachment devices or means include any attachment device or means known in the art. By way of example, without limitation, attachment flanges may include an attachment void to allow, for example, attachment of a nut and/or a bolt. Further, attachment devices or means may be removable or permanent. For example, the attachment devices or means may be permanently fixed to or even welded to a machine in a manufacturing line or it may be removable by unscrewing, unsnapping, releasing detents, or the like.

[0050] One particular embodiment is illustrated in FIG. 8, which provides a representation of a TT9 rotatory machine including a pouch magazine 110, printer station 112, pouch opener 114, air nozzle 116, chunk funnel 118, filling nozzle 120, gravy tank 122, multiple sealing bars 124, 126, cooling bar 128, conveyor 130, a location or position 132 to place a device or bump and a number of pouches 134, each having a top 136 and bottom 138. In some preferred forms, there will be multiple locations or positions to place devices and/or bumps, according to the present disclosure, in the processing line.

[0051] II. Methods

[0052] The present disclosure provides methods of reducing residual air in packages, such as pouch packages, during a manufacturing process. The methods include employing at least one residual air reducing device of the present disclosure in a manufacturing line. In some embodiments, a single device of the present disclosure is employed in a manufacturing line. In some embodiments, two or more devices of the present disclosure are employed in a manufacturing line. A suitable number of devices of the present disclosure employed in the manufacturing line is about 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 or more. Preferably, 1 to 2 devices are employed in a manufacturing line in an embodiment of the present disclosure. More preferably, in other embodiments, 2 or more devices are employed in a manufacturing line.

[0053] The methods of the disclosure include employing one or more reducing devices at a specific point in the manufacturing line to maximize residual air reduction. In some embodiments, the device is employed following a pouch filling step. In some embodiments, the device is employed prior to a package sealing step. In some embodiments, the device is employed following one or more pouch filling steps and/or prior to one or more package sealing steps.

[0054] The methods of the disclosure include employing the one or more residual air reducing devices at one or more specific package contact points to maximize residual air reduction. In some embodiments, the device is positioned to contact the package at one or more points along the bottom third of the package. In some embodiments, the device is positioned to contact the package along the middle third of the package. In some embodiments, the device is positioned to contact the package along the top third of the package. In some embodiments, the device is positioned to contact the package at a point in line with the filled product. In some embodiments, the device is positioned to contact the package at a point in line with the head space of the package. The methods include positioning at least one device in line with the filled product and at least one device in line with the head space of the package. A skilled artisan will recognize that the position of the device in relation to package contact may depend upon the viscosity of the filled product and type of product.

[0055] The methods of the disclosure include reducing the residual air in a packaged product, such as a pouch packaged product. In some embodiments, the residual air is reduced by at least 5% in comparison to a pouch packaged product manufactured without the use of the residual air reduction device described herein. And in certain embodiments, the residual air is reduced by about 10-100%. In further embodiments, the residual air is reduced by 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60% or more. In a particular embodiment, preferably, the residual air is reduced by at least 20-40%, and in another embodiment, the residual air content is reduced preferably by at least 50%-60%. A skilled artisan will recognize that the removal of residual air is dependent on several variables, such as, for example, product viscosity, chunk size, chunk and gravy/jelly ratio, net content, pouch configuration, and/or filling speed.

[0056] In some aspects, the methods of the disclosure include reducing the amount and/or content of residual air in a pouch packaged product so that less than 8 cubic centimeters (cc) of residual air is remaining in the final package after sealing. In some embodiments, the residual air is reduced so that about 0.1 to 10 cc of residual air is remaining in the final package after sealing. In certain embodiments, the residual air content is reduced to about 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.6, 0.7, 0.8, 0.9, 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 1.9, 2.0, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6, 2.7, 2.8, 2.9, 3.0, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6, 3.7, 3.8, 3.9, 4.0, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 4.5, 4.6, 4.7, 4.8, 4.9, 5.0, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, 5.5, 5.6, 5.7, 5.8, 5.9, 6.0, 6.5, 7.0, 7.5, 8.0, 8.5, 9.0, 9.5, or 10.0 cc remaining in the final package.

[0057] By way of example, without limitation, a pouch packaged using the methods of the disclosure has a reduced residual air content compared to the same sized pouch packaged without the methods of the disclosure. For instance, in an embodiment, a standard 50 g final sealed package that is produced using the methods of the disclosure may have at least 3 cc less of residual air compared to a 50 g pouch packaged and sealed without using the methods of the disclosure. In another embodiment, a standard 85 g final sealed package that is produced via the methods of the disclosure may have at least 5 cc less of residual air compared to a 85 g pouch that is packaged without using the methods of the disclosure. Likewise, a 100 g pouch that is a final sealed package produced according to the methods of the present disclosure may have at least 8 cc less of residual air compared to a 100 g final sealed package that was produced and/or sealed without using the methods of the disclosure. Further, a standard 150 g final sealed package that is produced using the methods of the present disclosure may include at least 10 cc less of residual air compared to a 150 g pouch packaged without using the methods of the disclosure.

[0058] A skilled artisan will recognize that the removal of residual air is dependent on several variables such as product viscosity, chunk size, chunk and gravy/jelly ratio, net content, pouch configuration, and/or filling speed.

EXAMPLES

[0059] The following examples are simply intended to further illustrate and explain the present disclosure. The disclosure, therefore, should not be limited to any of the details in these examples.

Example 1: General Pouch Package Fill Process

[0060] A general process for filling pouch packaged products includes opening the pouch, filling the pouch with the product, steam injecting the pouch to remove air from the head space, and sealing the pouch. In this protocol, the mechanism for removing air is primarily focused on displacing the portion contained in the head space. Nevertheless, air will also get naturally trapped within the product matrix. Injecting steam into the pouch is not effective for removing air trapped in a product matrix from the package. It is within this gap that the present disclosure decreases the residual air level.

[0061] The general process for filling pouch packaged products described above, without use of a device of the present disclosure, was used for the control pouch herein.

Example 2: Pouch Package Fill Process Using Residual Air Reduction Device

[0062] The residual air reduction device decreases residual air levels by smoothly allowing the product matrix to adequately settle to the bottom of the pouch package, thereby releasing additional air trapped within. To achieve residual air reduction, a residual air reduction device is attached in line to a filling machine, just after a product depositing station and before a steam injection. Taking advantage on the TT9 design (TT9 CWS rotatory machine, manufactured by Toyo Jidoki, Tokyo, Japan), the devices are placed upon the natural path that each pouch will follow. This ensures that the device gently contacts, or hits, each pouch, and/or that each pouch contacts the device as it proceeds through the filling and sealing process on the machine. This contact enables the additional air to move from the product matrix to the head space of the package. The package is then steam injected to remove the residual air in the head space of the package.

[0063] In comparison to control pouches packaged without the residual air reduction device, the amount of residual air in the packages are decreased by at least 30%. In other words, the residual air in a package undergoing the methods of the present disclosure and contacting a device described herein is 30% less than the residual air in a control pouch that underwent all of the same steps except for contacting a device as described herein. The use of the residual air reduction device is not dependent on product design variables.

Example 3: Product Used to Fill Pouch Package for Residual Air Reducing Device Analysis

[0064] A two-shot filling process was analyzed using the residual air reduction device. The product, which was a chunk:gravy (50:50) product, was dispensed into a pouch in two steps. The first step was filling the chunk component of the product and the second step was filling the gravy component of the product. The chunk PSD is shown in FIG. 3, and the gravy viscosity is shown in Table 1. The pouch packaged used was an 85 g volume pouch with a gusset of 20 mm and a net product content of 75 g.

TABLE-US-00001 TABLE 1 Gravy Viscosity. Viscosity Temperature Spindle RPM (cP) Torque (.degree. C.) 2 20 18 0.9 34.9 30 20 1.5 35 50 24 3 35 60 26 3.9 35 100 31.6 7.9 35

Example 4: Residual Air Reduction Device Shape Evaluation

[0065] The shape of the residual air reduction device was evaluated using various devices having varying alignment side numbers, alignment side lengths, and bump angles. FIG. 4 shows the shapes evaluated for the device. Each shape evaluated resulted in reduced residual air in the final sealed packaged product (FIG. 5). However, it is noted that, in some embodiments, working with a bump angle over 45.degree. could generate premature wear to the manufacturing equipment. Also, the hitting force with a bump angle over 45.degree. may manipulate the opening of a pouch prior to steam injections such that the pouch is compromised. In certain embodiments, the device including a bump angle of 30.degree. was the most efficient shape for reducing a residual air content of a product and/or of a pouch, such as a final sealed package and/or final sealed packaged product. (FIG. 5). It is understood that other bump angles are effective, depending on the specific characteristics of a product and/or a product package.

Example 5. Residual Air Reduction Device Number Evaluation

[0066] The number of residual air reduction devices positioned between the filling station and the steam injection station was evaluated. FIG. 6 shows the residual air remaining in the final sealed package after processing with or without a residual air reduction device of the disclosure. The use of multiple devices having either a 30.degree. bump angle or 45.degree. bump angle was also evaluated. Based on this evaluation, two devices having a bump angle of 30.degree. is more efficient than using only one device (FIG. 7) in some embodiments. Further, it was observed that hitting the bottom of the pouch was the most efficient contact position, as contact positions located higher caused product to splatter.

[0067] The disclosure illustratively disclosed herein suitably may be practiced in the absence of any element, which is not specifically disclosed herein. It is apparent to those skilled in the art, however, that many changes, variations, modifications, other uses, and applications to the method are possible, and also changes, variations, modifications, other uses, and applications which do not depart from the spirit and scope of the disclosure are deemed to be covered by the disclosure.

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