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US20130142917A1 - Consumer oriented system for delivery of product including single-serving package for preservative-free fruit pieces - Google Patents

Consumer oriented system for delivery of product including single-serving package for preservative-free fruit pieces Download PDF

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US20130142917A1
US20130142917A1 US13705078 US201213705078A US20130142917A1 US 20130142917 A1 US20130142917 A1 US 20130142917A1 US 13705078 US13705078 US 13705078 US 201213705078 A US201213705078 A US 201213705078A US 20130142917 A1 US20130142917 A1 US 20130142917A1
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fruit
pieces
serving
single
tube
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Abandoned
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US13705078
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Cyrus A. SEPEHR
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Cyrus A. SEPEHR
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    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D75/00Packages comprising articles or materials partially or wholly enclosed in strips, sheets, blanks, tubes, or webs of flexible sheet material, e.g. in folded wrappers
    • B65D75/26Articles or materials wholly enclosed in laminated sheets or wrapper blanks
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A23FOODS OR FOODSTUFFS; THEIR TREATMENT, NOT COVERED BY OTHER CLASSES
    • A23LFOODS, FOODSTUFFS, OR NON-ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES, NOT COVERED BY SUBCLASSES A23B - A23J; THEIR PREPARATION OR TREATMENT, e.g. COOKING, MODIFICATION OF NUTRITIVE QUALITIES, PHYSICAL TREATMENT; PRESERVATION OF FOODS OR FOODSTUFFS, IN GENERAL
    • A23L19/00Products from fruits or vegetables; Preparation or treatment thereof
    • A23L19/03Products from fruits or vegetables; Preparation or treatment thereof consisting of whole pieces or fragments without mashing the original pieces
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A23FOODS OR FOODSTUFFS; THEIR TREATMENT, NOT COVERED BY OTHER CLASSES
    • A23LFOODS, FOODSTUFFS, OR NON-ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES, NOT COVERED BY SUBCLASSES A23B - A23J; THEIR PREPARATION OR TREATMENT, e.g. COOKING, MODIFICATION OF NUTRITIVE QUALITIES, PHYSICAL TREATMENT; PRESERVATION OF FOODS OR FOODSTUFFS, IN GENERAL
    • A23L3/00Preservation of foods or foodstuffs, in general, e.g. pasteurising, sterilising, specially adapted for foods or foodstuffs
    • A23L3/015Preservation of foods or foodstuffs, in general, e.g. pasteurising, sterilising, specially adapted for foods or foodstuffs by treatment with pressure variation, shock, acceleration or shear stress or cavitation
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A23FOODS OR FOODSTUFFS; THEIR TREATMENT, NOT COVERED BY OTHER CLASSES
    • A23LFOODS, FOODSTUFFS, OR NON-ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES, NOT COVERED BY SUBCLASSES A23B - A23J; THEIR PREPARATION OR TREATMENT, e.g. COOKING, MODIFICATION OF NUTRITIVE QUALITIES, PHYSICAL TREATMENT; PRESERVATION OF FOODS OR FOODSTUFFS, IN GENERAL
    • A23L3/00Preservation of foods or foodstuffs, in general, e.g. pasteurising, sterilising, specially adapted for foods or foodstuffs
    • A23L3/015Preservation of foods or foodstuffs, in general, e.g. pasteurising, sterilising, specially adapted for foods or foodstuffs by treatment with pressure variation, shock, acceleration or shear stress or cavitation
    • A23L3/0155Preservation of foods or foodstuffs, in general, e.g. pasteurising, sterilising, specially adapted for foods or foodstuffs by treatment with pressure variation, shock, acceleration or shear stress or cavitation using sub- or super-atmospheric pressures, or pressure variations transmitted by a liquid or gas
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D77/00Packages formed by enclosing articles or materials in preformed containers, e.g. boxes, cartons, sacks, bags
    • B65D77/10Container closures formed after filling
    • B65D77/20Container closures formed after filling by applying separate lids or covers, i.e. flexible membrane or foil-like covers
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D77/00Packages formed by enclosing articles or materials in preformed containers, e.g. boxes, cartons, sacks, bags
    • B65D77/10Container closures formed after filling
    • B65D77/20Container closures formed after filling by applying separate lids or covers, i.e. flexible membrane or foil-like covers
    • B65D77/2024Container closures formed after filling by applying separate lids or covers, i.e. flexible membrane or foil-like covers the cover being welded or adhered to the container
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65BMACHINES, APPARATUS OR DEVICES FOR, OR METHODS OF, PACKAGING ARTICLES OR MATERIALS; UNPACKING
    • B65B25/00Packaging other articles presenting special problems
    • B65B25/02Packaging agricultural or horticultural products
    • B65B25/04Packaging fruit or vegetables
    • B65B25/041Packaging fruit or vegetables combined with their conservation

Abstract

A consumer-oriented method of processing and packaging single serving packages is provided that improves convenience and safety, reduces pathogens and spoilage, and promotes improved dietary intake, while extending refrigerated shelf life, wherein fruit is processed to create ready-to-eat single serving packages of preservative-free fruit pieces that may be readily consumed without utensils, and which may include a cold pasteurization processing step that significantly extends refrigerated shelf life beyond that attainable using conventional fruit processing methods.

Description

    CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
  • [0001]
    The present application is a continuation-in-part of co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/311,248, filed Dec. 5, 2011, the entire contents of which are incorporated by reference herein.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    The present invention is directed to a consumer-oriented system for the delivery of fruit pieces that promotes dietary fruit intake, including convenient and accessible single serving packaging that enhances the consumer's ease of use, reduces the presence of pathogens, increases shelf life, and reduces spoilage.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0003]
    It is a universal desire to eat healthy that transcends all cultures, societies, and beliefs. This desire to consume more unprocessed fruits and vegetables is borne through the realization that the fresher the food, the better it is. By way of contrast, it is widely believed, and supported through a panoply of empirical scientific research, that the addition of various preservatives, and conventional pasteurization processes inexorably attenuates the nutritional value and attendant health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.
  • [0004]
    To fulfill this desire, public health officials and other leading nutritionists uniformly agree that eating several servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day is an integral part of eating and living a healthy lifestyle. For example, it is generally accepted that a healthy diet should include 2-5 servings of fruit per day, with each serving consisting of one-half to three-quarters of a cup. Unfortunately, attaining these goals is stifled by several logistical and safety issues, such that most inhabitants of the U.S. and other developed nations fall far short of these dietary guidelines.
  • [0005]
    Aside from certain fruits that naturally occur in single-serving portions, like bananas, apples and peaches, most fruit involves considerable processing effort before it can be rendered into a form suitable for consumption. For example, many types of fruit require peeling, cutting, cracking, dicing, or other methods to be rendered suitable for individual servings. These methods oftentimes require a substantial amount of time, a kitchen or similar facility, knives, or special equipment, which may not be available to someone who is on her/his lunch break, is on the go, or is in school or at the beach. This is particularly the case for larger fruits, like pineapples and melons, where the fruit typically must first be washed, cut into pieces, and have the rind removed. Such processing steps usually require access to a sink, cutting board, trash receptacle, dishes, and utensils, are messy, and take a substantial investment of time in both preparation and clean-up.
  • [0006]
    While some fruits are available in processed form (e.g., canned), the typical processing steps involve high temperature pasteurization, which can denature the essential nutrients, as well as the addition of sugary syrups and preservatives. To avoid these drawbacks, some grocery stores have begun carrying packages of pre-cut fruit, such as melon, in the refrigerated sections. While such packages obviate many of the difficulties associated with fruit preparation, these packages generally contain multiple servings, and/or include preservatives. Such bulk packages require continual refrigeration, and therefore do not meet the time constraints imposed by modern society. For example, refrigerated multi-serving packages must be repackaged for daily consumption, and oftentimes the contents of the bulk packages spoil before they can be completely consumed.
  • [0007]
    Another public health issue, which inheres with the consumption of fruit, is the prevalence of pathogens. Each year, many people die from the consumption of pathogen-contaminated fruit. Also, each year, billions of dollars worth of fruit are lost to spoilage. In particular, grocery stores battle the complexities of logistics to maintain an adequate supply of fresh fruit. When a grocery store receives fruit, this fruit must be sold as quickly as possible, otherwise the fruit will spoil and have to be discarded. Moreover, conventional pre-cut fruit pieces have a very limited shelf-life, typically less than seven days from the packaging date.
  • [0008]
    A related issue is when a customer brings the fruit home from the grocery store. Oftentimes, the vagaries of life will result in spoiling fruit in one's refrigerator or kitchen counter. As the fruit starts to turn brown and dehydrates, many customers simply throw the fruit away. Of course, attempts have been made to mitigate the issue of fruit spoilage. Many food companies can their fruits with preservatives attendant to rigorous processing methods. What's more, many canned fruits are infused with sugars, or corn syrup, which may make the fruit less healthy. Unfortunately, these processes seriously compromise the quality and taste, as well as the aesthetic looks, the nutritional value, price, and the anticipated salutary effects of the fruit.
  • [0009]
    Despite the ubiquitous recognition that increased fruit consumption is desirable, the prior art is virtually devoid of practical solutions to provide preservative-free single serving packaging for fruits, and especially packaging that eliminates the need for utensils. While the patent literature describes some methods for processing fruit to improve refrigerated shelf-life, as described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,895,729 to Powrie, that patent describes methods for processing multi-serving containers, and there is ample room for further improvement.
  • [0010]
    It would therefore be desirable to provide methods of processing and packaging fruit that enhance ease of use and consumption, by providing single serving packaging that eliminates the need for utensils.
  • [0011]
    It further would be desirable to provide methods of processing and packaging fruit that reduce the potential for contamination with pathogens, and reduce spoilage, by providing improved pasteurized single serving packaging.
  • [0012]
    It still further would be desirable to provide methods of processing and packaging fruit that eliminates the need for sugary syrups or preservatives to preserve freshness, by providing preservative-free single serving fruit packaging having improved refrigerated shelf-life.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0013]
    In view of the foregoing drawbacks, the present invention provides methods of processing and packaging fruit, and particularly fruit pieces, that enhance ease of use and consumption, reduce contamination and spoilage, improve shelf-life and facilitate the distribution of preservative-free fruit pieces.
  • [0014]
    In accordance with one aspect of the invention, whole fruit is processed under aseptic, sanitary conditions to remove the rind and chop, dice or segment the fruit into conveniently-sized pieces, which are packaged in a preservative-free manner in a substantially gas impermeable single serving tray or tube. The tray or tube may be sealed so as to reduce the headspace in the package. While a utensil may be included in the tray form of the packaging, the tube preferably is constructed so that the fruit pieces may be eaten, without using a utensil, by squeezing the tube from its closed end towards its open end. Preferably, the tray or tube is processed using a high pressure pasteurization process that avoids heating the fruit pieces, and provides extended refrigerated shelf life for the package. Advantageously, the high pressure pasteurization process does not denature the fruit pieces, and has negligible adverse effect on freshness, texture or taste.
  • [0015]
    In accordance with another aspect of the invention, apparatus is provided for the purpose of facilitating the consumption of produce, eliminating pathogens, increasing shelf life, and for reducing spoilage. In various implementations of an embodiment, the consumer-oriented system for the delivery of produce preferably includes some or all of the steps of: a) receiving the fruit at a temperature between 38-50° F.; b) washing the fruit at a temperature between 38°-50° F.; c) coring, skinning, and/or removing seeds from the fruit under aseptic conditions; d) slicing the fruit into small bite-sized pieces; e) passing the fruit pieces through a metal detection system; f) placing the fruit pieces into the packaging; and g) cold pasteurizing (pressurizing) the packaging with the inserted fruit in a high pressure system at a temperature between 38°-50° F. After the cold pasteurization, the packaging is subjected to a cooling bath at about 34° F. for about 5 minutes. Alternatively, the step of passing the fruit pieces through a metal detection system may be performed after the packaging step and/or after the cool pasteurization step.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0016]
    The foregoing and other aspects of the invention are described in detail below in conjunction with the following figures:
  • [0017]
    FIGS. 1A and 1B are, respectively, perspective views of a sealed and opened single serving tube of fruit pieces prepared in accordance with the principles of the present invention, where the fruit pieces are grapefruit segments;
  • [0018]
    FIGS. 2A and 2B are end sectional views illustrating alternative ways of forming a tube for use as a single serving package of the present invention;
  • [0019]
    FIG. 3 is an illustrative embodiment of a laminated film suitable for forming a single serving package of the present invention;
  • [0020]
    FIGS. 4A and 4B are, respectively, perspective views of a sealed and opened single serving tube of fruit pieces prepared in accordance with the principles of the present invention, where the fruit pieces are diced pineapple pieces;
  • [0021]
    FIGS. 5A and 5B are, respectively, perspective views of a sealed and opened single serving tube of fruit pieces prepared in accordance with the principles of the present invention, where the fruit pieces are pomegranate arils;
  • [0022]
    FIGS. 6A-6D are plan, perspective and side views of a single serving tray suitable for use with the present invention;
  • [0023]
    FIG. 7 is a flow chart showing the processing steps for preparing a single serving package of preservative-free fruit pieces in accordance with the present invention; and
  • [0024]
    FIG. 8 is schematic illustration depicting the steps set forth in FIG. 7.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
  • [0025]
    According to one embodiment of the present invention, a unique consumer-oriented system for the delivery of produce, especially fruit pieces, including improved methods of safety and packaging is provided for the purpose of reducing or eliminating pathogens, increasing shelf life, and for reducing spoilage.
  • [0026]
    In certain embodiments, the term “produce” shall hereinafter refer to all fruit, vegetables, or other foods, which may be adaptable for use with the various embodiments described herein.
  • [0027]
    In certain embodiments, the term “produce” shall refer to fruit.
  • [0028]
    In certain embodiments, the term “produce” shall refer to vegetables.
  • [0029]
    Even though embodiments described below in the specification are primarily directed towards fruits, produce other than fruits may be included.
  • [0030]
    For the purpose of the present invention, the term “fruit” shall hereinafter refer to all fruit, which are adaptable for use with the processes described herein. Given the rigorous nature of the described processes, not all fruit may be processed in accordance with the described methods. Accordingly, while certain process steps may need to be revised or eliminated entirely and cause a concomitant reduction in shelf-life, other aspects of the present invention may be applied to such fruit. Furthermore, the term “produce” shall hereinafter refer to all fruit, vegetables, or other foods, which may be adaptable for use with the various embodiments described herein.
  • [0031]
    The practice of packaging preservative-free fruit into bite-sized pieces in single serving containers, as discussed above, promotes safety and freshness and has heretofore not been performed due to the fact that logistical issues, compounded with spoilage, have prevented fruit distributors and processors from bringing such a product to market. This stems in no small part from the inability to properly pasteurize the fruit in such a way to prolong the shelf-life of the fruit while not compromising the freshness, taste and nutritional value of the fruit, and from the lack of many of the processing features described herein. As a result of the unique packaging and processing methods and systems of the present invention, a consumer will be able to purchase a single serving package or a box or bag containing multiple single serving packages, each containing bite sized preservative-free fruit pieces. This is a departure and a dramatic improvement over previously-known ways of consuming fruit, which typically require a consumer to wait until he or she is at home, with ready access to a knife, cutting boards, sink, dishes and utensils.
  • [0032]
    With the availability of the single serving “snack-packs” of bite-sized fruit pieces prepared in accordance with the principles of the present invention, consumers will no longer have to worry about any of the above. Instead, with the single serving packaging prepared in accordance with the present invention, consumers may eat fresh, wholesome, preservative-free fruit anytime, anywhere.
  • [0033]
    Moreover, consumers should be able to purchase the fruit packaged in accordance with the present invention from the refrigerated sections of most supermarkets, convenience stores or vending machines (in a manner similar to not so healthy counterpart snacks, like potato chips, chips, candy, soda, etc.) and consume that fruit immediately, at the workplace, school, at the beach, or any other place conveniently, without knives, utensils, or a running water supply. In accordance with one aspect of the invention, the fruit pieces can be pushed directly out of the single serving tube directly into the consumers mouth, without utensils, because the fruit pieces are already cut, diced, or processed to a bite-sized format that eliminates the need to wash, peel, or otherwise process the fruit prior to consumption. Alternatively, if the fruit pieces are packaged in a tray, the single serve packaging also may include a fork, spoon or other disposable utensil.
  • [0034]
    In certain embodiments, the methods and packages provided herein can be used in connection with fruits of all processed states. For example, the fruit used in connection with currently provided methods and/or packages may be whole fruit, whole peeled fruit, sections of fruit in any size, large or small, or pureed fruit.
  • [0035]
    In one embodiment provided herein is a method for packaging fruit, comprising the steps of: receiving the fruit at a temperature between 38°-50° F.; washing the fruit at a temperature between 38°-50° F.; optionally coring, skinning, and/or removing seeds from the fruit under aseptic conditions; optionally slicing the fruit into pieces; optionally passing the fruit through a metal-detection system; placing the fruit into a package; and cold pasteurizing the package with the inserted fruit in a high-pressure process system.
  • [0036]
    Referring now to FIGS. 1A and 1B, single serving preservative-free tube of fruit pieces 10 prepared in accordance with the principles of the present invention is described. Tube 10 preferably has a tubular shape made of a substantially gas impermeable film and has length L, first end 11, second end 12, tearable zone 13 and lateral wall 14. In a preferred embodiment, length L is between about 4 to 10 inches, and removing tearable zone 13, by tearing across the tube at pre-cut notch 15, creates opening 16 having an approximate diameter of 0.7 to 1.5 inches. Opening 16 preferably has a size that permits the entire opening to be placed into a consumer's mouth, so that fruit pieces 17 contained within the tube may be deposited in the consumer's mouth without spillage. Still more preferably, tube 10 may be configured so that squeezing the tube along lateral wall 14 from second end 12 towards first end 11 causes fruit pieces 17 to be ejected through opening 16 into the consumer's mouth. Tube 10 may include gusset 18 at second end 12 to provide additional volume with the tube.
  • [0037]
    As shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B, a quantity of fruit pieces 17 are disposed within tube 10, such that the fruit pieces are preservative-free. Fruit pieces may comprise individual whole units of fruit, such as grapes, segments or partial segments of citrus fruit, such as grapefruit or oranges, or chopped, diced, cubed or sliced pieces of fruit, such as melon or pineapple. Depending upon the type of fruit selected and intended market segment, such as children, teens or adults, the quantity of fruit pieces may constitute a single serving, and thus have a volume of from one-half to three-quarters of a cup and an aggregate weight in a range of about 1.5 to 6.0 ounces or more, and more preferably, between 2.5 and 4.0 ounces. In accordance with the principles of the present invention, the fruit pieces are not treated with a chemical preservative, and are not suspended in preservative liquid or syrup. Instead, the contents of tube 10 preferably constitute only “100% fruit” in accordance with USDA labeling standards.
  • [0038]
    A wide variety of fruits are suitable for single serving packaging in accordance with the present invention, including pineapple, mango, papaya, pomegranate, grapefruit, grapes, melon, oranges, tangerines, peaches, nectarines and other stone fruit. Depending upon the type of fruit, the fruit pieces may be either chopped, cubed, diced, sliced or cut into bar forms. In chopped, diced or cubed form, the fruit pieces may range from cubes ranging from one-quarter to one-half inches on a side. For example, a pineapple may be chopped or diced into cubes about three-eighths of an inch on a side or sliced into bars having a length of four to five inches. In the case of grapes, whole units of fruit may be packaged in an individual, single serving package.
  • [0039]
    Referring now to FIGS. 2A, 2B and 3, methods of forming a single serving tube suitable for use as packaging for the present invention is described. In FIG. 2A, tube 20 comprises a laminate film for which opposing lateral edges 21 and 22 of the film are overlapped and bonded together to form lap joint 23. Alternatively, as depicted in FIG. 2B, tube 24 may be formed by welding two separate layers 25 and 26 of laminate film together along their lateral edges to form flange joints 27 and 28. For either tube 20 or 24, the film may be bonded together using either heated or ultrasonic anvils, provided that the joints 23 or 27 and 28 remain substantially air tight. The second ends of tubes 20 and 24 may be sealed using a hot forming process to create a seam, or additionally, a gusset may be formed to provide additional volume near the lower end of the tube.
  • [0040]
    Referring to FIG. 3, in accordance with one aspect of the present invention, laminate film 30 preferably comprises at least base layer 31 of a flexible polymeric material, such as polyethylene and second layer 32 comprising a substantially gas impermeable layer, such as ethylene vinyl alcohol (“EVOH”). In a more preferred embodiment, laminate film 30 further comprises a layer of nylon disposed on the second side of the EVOH layer. While such laminate films have been used for packaging meat and shellfish, heretofore such films have not been used for packaging preservative-free fruit. As discussed below with respect to FIGS. 7 and 8, the use of such specialty laminate films is particularly advantageous when subjecting the packages to a cold pasteurization process.
  • [0041]
    Laminate film 30 preferably has a thickness in a range of 30 to 200 microns. When used for high turnover stock, such as school lunch programs where shelf live typically need not exceed 7 to 14 days, cold pasteurization is not required. In this case, especially where the fruit piece constitutes a bar form rather than being cubed or chopped, a thinner laminate of 30 to 80 microns, and more preferably 65-75 microns may be desired. If the fruit pieces are chopped, diced or cubed, it may be preferable to use a thicker laminate film, such as 80 to 120 microns, even if the cold pasteurization process is omitted, to make the single serving package sufficiently rigid so as not to sag during handling. For retail packaging of bar form or chopped fruit pieces, such as for sale in a grocery store, a thicker laminate film of 80 to 120 microns preferably is used to resist damage to the fruit pieces during transit and handling. Further, for retail packaging of bar form or chopped fruit pieces, where a shelf life of from 14 days to three months or more is desired, the thicker laminate film of 80 to 120 microns is preferred to withstand the cold pasteurization process.
  • [0042]
    Referring again to FIGS. 2A and 2B, the tubular form of the packaging of the present invention may be formed to surround the fruit piece, for example, in the case where the fruit has a bar form and separate layers of film are bonded together as in the embodiment of FIG. 2B. Alternatively, the tube may be formed as depicted in either FIG. 2A or 2B and subsequently filled, for example, with chopped, diced, cubed or segmented fruit pieces. In this case, after the tube is formed and filled with fruit pieces, the tube may be partially evacuated, or the contents of the tube lightly tamped or vibrated prior to sealing of the tube so that the tube contains a relatively small headspace or void above the fruit pieces. Preferably, the headspace is less than 5% of the volume of tube, e.g., less than 0.5 ounce. Advantageously, the packaging process of the present invention obviates the need for flushing the single serving packages with an oxygen/inert gas mixture as described in the prior art for bulk processing methods.
  • [0043]
    With respect to FIGS. 4A and 4B, single serving tube 40 of pineapple pieces 41 is described. Tube 40 is similar to tube 10 of FIGS. 1A and 1B, except that it is formed by bonding separate laminate films 42 and 43 in the manner described with respect to FIG. 2B. Tube 40 is made of a substantially gas impermeable film, as discussed above with respect to FIG. 3, and has length L, first end 44, second end 45, tearable zone 46 and lateral wall 47. In a preferred embodiment, length L is between about 4 to 10 inches, and removing tearable zone 46, by tearing across the tube at pre-cut notch 48, creates opening 49 having an approximate diameter of 0.7 to 1.5 inches. Opening 49 preferably has a size that permits the entire opening to be placed into a consumer's mouth, so that fruit pieces 41 contained within the tube may be deposited in the consumer's mouth without spillage. Still more preferably, tube 40 is configured so that squeezing the tube along lateral wall 47 from second end 45 towards first end 44 causes fruit pieces 41 to be ejected through opening 49 into the consumer's mouth. Tube 40 may include a gusset at second end 45 to provide additional volume with the tube.
  • [0044]
    FIGS. 5A and 5B depict single serving tube 50 containing pomegranate arils 51. Tube 50 is similar to tube 24 of FIG. 2B, and is formed by bonding separate laminate films 52 and 53 to form flange joints 54 and 55. As for the preceding embodiments, tube 50 comprises a substantially gas impermeable laminate film and includes first end 56, second end 57, tearable zone 58 and lateral wall 59. Tube 50 is opened by removing tearable zone by tearing across the tube at pre-cut notch 60, creating opening 61. Opening 61 preferably fits within a consumer's mouth, so that fruit pieces 55 may be deposited in the consumer's mouth without spillage. Preferably, tube 50 is configured so that squeezing the tube along lateral wall 59 from second end 57 towards first end 58 causes fruit pieces 55 to be ejected into the consumer's mouth. Tube 50 also may include gusset 62 at second end 57 to provide additional volume within the tube.
  • [0045]
    In accordance with one aspect of the invention, the single serving package of the present invention may include a bar code or QR code, such as bar code 65 in FIGS. 4A and 4B, which encodes traceability information for the package. For example, in one embodiment the bar code could encode data regarding the source of the fruit pieces, where and when the fruit pieces were processed and packaged, and information relating to the cold pasteurization lot (if that process was performed). In addition the single serving package preferably is imprinted with manufacturer and branding information, as well as expiration and/or sell by dates.
  • [0046]
    Referring now to FIGS. 6A to 6D, an embodiment of the present invention comprising a single serving tray is described. Tray 70 comprises rigid base 71 and flexible top film 72. Preferably, both base 71 and top film 72 are made of a substantially gas impermeable laminate film, such as the nylon/EVOH/polyethylene film described with respect to FIG. 3. Base 71 comprises a thicker laminate, such as 80 to 120 microns, that may be formed using conventional heated vacuum mold technology to include bowl portion 73 and utensil compartment 74. Bowl portion 73 may include dimple 75 that maintains the fruit pieces above slightly elevated above the bottom of the bowl, so as to reduce deterioration of the fruit pieces. Top film 72 comprises a thinner laminate film, such as 30-60 microns, and may include tab 76 for facilitating removal of the top film. Utensil compartment 74 preferably includes a disposable utensil, such as a plastic fork.
  • [0047]
    In accordance with the principles of the present invention, during packaging, bowl portion 73 of base 71 first is filled with a single serving of fruit pieces, e.g., one-half to three-quarters of a cup of preservative-free fruit pieces. As for the preceding embodiments, tray 70 is filled with 100% fruit, without chemical preservatives or syrups. Once a measured serving of fruit pieces is deposited in bowl portion 73, top film 72 is shrink wrapped onto the fruit pieces by partially evacuating the air from within bowl portion 73 beneath top film 72. When application of top film 72 is completed, top film 72 serves as an artificial substantially gas impermeable “skin” over the fruit pieces.
  • [0048]
    In accordance with another aspect of the invention, base 71 and top film 72 permit single serving tray 70 to be cold pasteurized using the high pressure process described below with respect to FIGS. 7 and 8. Once the cold pasteurization process is completed, a label is applied to the upper surface of base 71, above top film 72, which contains manufacturer and brand information, as well as expiration and sell by dates. Additional information regarding the source of fruit, processing location, etc., may be encoded onto the label using a bar code or QR code as described herein above.
  • [0049]
    Referring now to FIGS. 7 and 8, the consumer-oriented system for processing of produce including improved methods of safety and packaging 100 includes Step 1 for receiving the fruit at a temperature between 38°-50° F. at 101; Step 2 for washing the fruit at a temperature between 38°-50° F. at 102; Step 3 for coring, skinning, and/or removing seeds from the fruit under aseptic conditions at 103; Step 4 for slicing, dicing, chopping or segmenting the fruit into bite-sized pieces at 104; Step 5 for passing the fruit through a metal-detection system at 105; Step 6 at 106 for placing the bite-sized fruit pieces into the packaging; and Step 7, at 107, for cold pasteurizing the packaging and fruit pieces in a high pressure system at a temperature between 38°-50° F. Alternatively, the step of passing the fruit pieces through a metal detection system may be performed after the packaging step and/or after the cool pasteurization step. Each of these steps is discussed in further detail below, and schematically illustrated in the like-numbered step of FIG. 8.
  • [0050]
    In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, the first step of the process involves receiving the fruit through a cold chain logistics system at a temperature between 38°-50° F., at 101, to ensure that handling, processing, and packaging are done under a consistently maintained ambient temperature of 38°-50° F. If the fruit is processed at a site other than where it is grown, it is preferably shipped in a refrigerated truck directly from the groves, orchards, or the like. Subsequently, the fruit will be received in a loading bay of the processing facility within the same temperature range. This is hereinafter referred to as the “cold chain”. The process described herein preferably maintains a temperature within the target range for the purpose of ensuring the freshness and sanitation of the fruit.
  • [0051]
    At 102, Step 2, the fruit is washed to remove dirt and pathogens. Different types of fruit have varying degrees of thickness and durability. Different types of fruit also have unique differences in the extent to which the rind or outer surface holds potential pathogens. Thus, for example, a pineapple may have to be washed at a different pressure as compared to an orange. Preferably, the step for washing the fruit is performed at a temperature between 38°-50° F. under aseptic conditions, e.g., the employees wear hair-nets and the facility observes standard regulations associated with handling food facilities, e.g., that reduce the presence of airborne pathogens and fungi.
  • [0052]
    At 103, Step 3, the fruit is cored, skinned, and/or the seeds are removed from the fruit under aseptic conditions to prepare the fruit for insertion into packaging. This exact procedure used to carry out this step will vary due to the particular type of fruit to be processed. At 104, Step 4, the fruit is sliced, diced or chopped into small bite-sized pieces. For certain fruits, such as grapes, the fruit may be removed from a stem, or in the case of pomegranates, the arils removed from the husk. In keeping with the requirement that the introduction of pathogens be kept to a minimum, the tools used to process fruit should be rigorously washed with heat, soap, water, and/or may be sterilized.
  • [0053]
    At 105, Step 5, the fruit pieces are passed through metal detector system 120 that identifies and removes any metallic particles, which may be found within or upon the fruit pieces. Preferably, the environment of metal-detection system 120 is maintained at a temperature of 38°-50° F. to maintain the cold chain. In one embodiment, metal detection system 120 further comprises semi-sealed unit 121 with integrated refrigeration system 122 within housing 124, which is disposed near metal detector 123. Metal detector system 120 may include a series of gates or air nozzles to eject metallic particles or fruit pieces having such metallic particles, to a discard bin (not shown). As discussed above, the step of passing the fruit pieces through a metal detection system may be performed after the packaging step and/or after the cool pasteurization step.
  • [0054]
    At 106, Step 6, the fruit pieces are inserted into a plurality of single serving packages, illustratively tubes 10 described above with respect to FIGS. 1-3, preferably while maintained under cold-chain conditions at 38°-50° F. Excess air is removed from the tubes by partially evacuating the tubes, or tamping or vibrating the tubes to reduce headspace, and the tubes then are sealed in an air-tight manner, using a hot forming process (e.g., heated or ultrasonic anvils) or other suitable process for maintaining an air-tight seal. The single serving packages also may be notched to create a tearable region, as discussed herein above. Alternatively, a laser score may be applied to the tearable region to facilitate opening of the tube. Further, if a tray as described with respect to FIGS. 6A-6D is used, the fruit pieces are covered with a film layer, which is shrunk down onto the fruit to reduce headspace in the package. The completed single serving package then is imprinted with a suitable label and a bar code or QR code affixed to the package to provide traceability.
  • [0055]
    At 107, Step 7, the sealed and labeled packages then are inserted into high pressure system 130 to cold pasteurize the fruit pieces; this process also is performed under cold-chain conditions of 38°-50° F. Preferably, the cold pasteurization process takes place in a hydrostatic chamber, such that the fluid in which the packages are immersed is subjected to pressures of up to 80,000 psi, and more preferably 80,000 psi, for a period of about 60 to 120 seconds, and more preferably 90 seconds. Preferably, the water used in the hydrostatic chamber is chilled to a temperature of about 40° F. prior to loading with the single serve packages, to avoid initiation of an enzymatic process in the fruit that can lead to subsequent deterioration. Following completion of the high pressure step, the packages preferably are removed to a cold bath at about 34° F. for a period of about 5 minutes. After this bath, the packages are dried and refrigerated at a temperature of around 42° F., which is a standard refrigeration temperature.
  • [0056]
    Cold pasteurization is known to destroy many food borne pathogens such as Listeria, Escherichia coli, and Salmonella by disrupting the mitochondrial membranes of such organisms. Although cold pasteurization is known for processing fruit juices, it has not heretofore been applied to fruit pieces. Advantageously, the high pressurization process also targets the microorganisms that are primary contributors to spoilage. While the pressurizing process renders the pathogens inert, it has negligible effect on the taste, shape, texture and integrity of the fruit in its original and unaltered natural state. Because the high pressure process performed at Step 7 acts quickly and evenly on food, neither the size of a product's container nor its thickness play a role in the effectiveness of pressurizing. The High Pressure Process does not greatly affect the nutritional value, taste, texture, and appearance. As a result, the high pressure treatment of foods is regarded as a “natural” preservation method, and eliminates the need for chemical preservatives.
  • [0057]
    Initial testing of the process described in FIGS. 7 and 8 has demonstrated that when cold pasteurization is applied to packages containing pineapple, mango, grapefruit or pomegranate pieces, the resulting packages, when refrigerated at 42° F., have shelf lives up to six to seven months, with no spoilage and only minor decrease in taste and texture. Tests of packages refrigerated for three months at 42° F. have been observed to taste as fresh as when initially packaged.
  • [0058]
    In certain cases where the stock of packages of fruit pieces is expected to experience high turnover, such as stock used for school lunch programs that requires a shelf life of only 7-14 days, the extended shelf life provided by the cold pasteurization process may be unnecessary. In such cases, the high pressure treatment of the cold pasteurization process may be omitted. Instead, subjecting the packages as described herein above, containing the fruit pieces, to a bath at 34° F. for about five minutes is expected to be sufficient to provide the required shelf life.
  • [0059]
    The single serving package of the present invention may contain only one type of fruit. Alternatively, the single serving package may comprise two or more different types of fruit, which are selected based upon their intrinsic nutritional makeup. The composite of these fruits with their particular vitamins and nutrients may be used to meet or achieve the parameters of a particular physiological goal or predetermined level in the body of the consumer. For instance, if one type of fruit is relatively high in Vitamin C, and may be low in Magnesium, a second type of fruit may be included in the package that is relatively high in Magnesium. Therefore, in one embodiment, the variety of fruits may be mixed and matched to achieve a particular nutritional metric in terms of vitamins, minerals, calories, carbohydrates, acids, or other quality. Alternatively, a box or bag of single serving packages of fruit pieces may contain a selection of different fruits in the individual single serving packages.
  • [0060]
    It will be apparent to the skilled artisan that there are numerous changes that may be made in embodiments described herein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. As such, the invention taught herein by specific examples is limited only by the scope of the claims that follow.

Claims (21)

    What is claimed is:
  1. 1. A single serving package for fruit pieces comprising:
    a tube comprising a substantially gas impermeable film, the tube having length, first and second ends, a tearable zone near the first end and a lateral wall; and
    a quantity of fruit pieces disposed within the tube, the fruit pieces being preservative-free and comprising at least one of individual whole units of fruit, fruit segments or chopped or cubed pieces of fruit, the quantity of fruit pieces having an aggregate weight in a range of about 1.5 to 6.0 ounces,
    wherein the tube is configured so that tearing the tearable zone creates an opening providing access to the quantity of fruit pieces,
    wherein the length is in a range of about 4 to 10 inches, and a diameter of the opening is in a range of about 0.7 to 1.5 inches, and wherein the tube is configured so that squeezing the tube along the lateral wall from the second end to the first end ejects the fruit pieces through the opening.
  2. 2. The single-serving package of claim 1, wherein the film comprises a laminate film having a thickness in a range of about 30 to 200 microns, the laminate including at least a base layer and a layer of ethylene vinyl alcohol.
  3. 3. The single serving package of claim 1, wherein the laminate film has a thickness in the range of about 30 to 50 microns.
  4. 4. The single serving package of claim 1, wherein the tube is formed by a hot forming process.
  5. 5. The single serving package of claim 1, wherein the tube includes a gusset at the second end.
  6. 6. The single serving package of claim 1, wherein the tube is formed around the quantity of fruit pieces.
  7. 7. The single serving package of claim 1 wherein the tube is formed prior to being filled with the quantity of fruit pieces.
  8. 8. The single serving package of claim 1, wherein the tube, when sealed, has a headspace of less than 0.5 ounce.
  9. 9. The single serving package of claim 1, wherein the fruit pieces have a shelf-life in a range of about 7 to 14 days.
  10. 10. The single serving package of claim 1, wherein the fruit pieces are processed by a high pressure pasteurization process.
  11. 11. The single serving package of claim 10, wherein the fruit pieces have a shelf-life in a range of about 14 to 90 days.
  12. 12. The single serving package of claim 1 wherein the fruit pieces comprise: chopped or diced pineapple, mango, papaya or melon, segments of orange or grapefruit or parts thereof, pomegranate arils, whole grapes, or stone fruits.
  13. 13. A single serving package for fruit pieces comprising:
    a tray comprising a substantially gas impermeable material rigid base and a substantially gas impermeable top film, the base having a bowl portion and a utensil compartment; and
    a quantity of fruit pieces disposed within the bowl portion, the fruit pieces being preservative-free and comprising at least one of individual whole units of fruit, fruit segments or chopped or cubed pieces of fruit, the quantity of fruit pieces having an aggregate weight in a range of about 1.5 to 6.0 ounces,
    wherein the top film is disposed in close fitting relation to the fruit pieces, and
    tray and fruit pieces are treated using a cold pasteurization process that extends refrigerated shelf life.
  14. 14. The single serving package of claim 13, wherein one of the base and the top film comprises a laminate film having a thickness in a range of about 30 to 200 microns, the laminate including at least a base layer and a layer of ethylene vinyl alcohol.
  15. 15. The single serving package of claim 14, wherein the laminate film further comprises a layer of nylon bonded to the layer of ethylene vinyl alcohol.
  16. 16. The single serving package of claim 13, wherein the cold pasteurization process extends refrigerated shelf life to at least 90 days without detectable deterioration of taste, texture or freshness of the fruit pieces.
  17. 17. The single serving package of claim 13, wherein the cold pasteurization process extends refrigerated shelf life to at least 120 days without spoilage of the fruit pieces.
  18. 18. The single serving package of claim 13, wherein air between the top film and base is at least partially evacuated.
  19. 19. The single serving package of claim 13, further comprising a disposable utensil disposed in the utensil compartment.
  20. 20. The single serving package of claim 13, wherein the fruit pieces comprise: chopped or diced pineapple, mango, papaya or melon, segments of orange or grapefruit or parts thereof, pomegranate arils, whole grapes or stone fruits.
  21. 21. A method for packaging fruit, comprising the steps of:
    receiving the fruit at a temperature between 38°-50° F.;
    washing the fruit at a temperature between 38°-50° F.;
    optionally coring, skinning, and/or removing seeds from the fruit under aseptic conditions;
    optionally slicing the fruit into pieces;
    optionally passing the fruit through a metal-detection system;
    placing the fruit into a package; and
    cold pasteurizing the package with the inserted fruit in a high-pressure process system.
US13705078 2011-12-05 2012-12-04 Consumer oriented system for delivery of product including single-serving package for preservative-free fruit pieces Abandoned US20130142917A1 (en)

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