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US20140272017A1 - Consumer oriented system for delivery of product including single-serving package for preservative-free frozen fruit pieces - Google Patents

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

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US20140272017A1
US20140272017A1 US13839481 US201313839481A US20140272017A1 US 20140272017 A1 US20140272017 A1 US 20140272017A1 US 13839481 US13839481 US 13839481 US 201313839481 A US201313839481 A US 201313839481A US 20140272017 A1 US20140272017 A1 US 20140272017A1
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fruit
frozen
pieces
tube
serving
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US13839481
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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
    • B65D85/00Containers, packaging elements or packages specially adapted for particular articles or materials
    • B65D85/70Containers, packaging elements or packages specially adapted for particular articles or materials for materials not otherwise provided for
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A23FOODS OR FOODSTUFFS; THEIR TREATMENT, NOT COVERED BY OTHER CLASSES
    • A23BPRESERVING, e.g. BY CANNING, MEAT, FISH, EGGS, FRUIT, VEGETABLES, EDIBLE SEEDS; CHEMICAL RIPENING OF FRUIT OR VEGETABLES; THE PRESERVED, RIPENED, OR CANNED PRODUCTS
    • A23B7/00Preservation or chemical ripening of fruit or vegetables
    • A23B7/04Freezing; Subsequent thawing; Cooling
    • A23B7/0425Freezing; Subsequent thawing; Cooling the material not being transported through or in the apparatus, with or without shaping, e.g. in the form of powder, granules or flakes
    • A23B7/0433Freezing; Subsequent thawing; Cooling the material not being transported through or in the apparatus, with or without shaping, e.g. in the form of powder, granules or flakes with packages or with shaping in the form of blocks or portions
    • 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
    • A23L3/36Freezing; Subsequent thawing; Cooling
    • A23L3/363Freezing; Subsequent thawing; Cooling the materials not being transported through or in the apparatus with or without shaping, e.g. in form of powder, granules, or flakes
    • A23L3/364Freezing; Subsequent thawing; Cooling the materials not being transported through or in the apparatus with or without shaping, e.g. in form of powder, granules, or flakes with packages or with shaping in form of blocks or portions
    • 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
    • B65D85/00Containers, packaging elements or packages specially adapted for particular articles or materials
    • B65D85/30Containers, packaging elements or packages specially adapted for particular articles or materials for articles particularly sensitive to damage by shock or pressure
    • B65D85/34Containers, packaging elements or packages specially adapted for particular articles or materials for articles particularly sensitive to damage by shock or pressure for fruit, e.g. apples, oranges, tomatoes

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 frozen shelf life, wherein fruit is processed to create ready-to-eat single serving packages of preservative-free frozen fruit pieces that may be readily consumed without utensils, and which may include a freezing step that significantly extends frozen shelf life beyond that attainable using conventional fruit processing methods.

Description

    FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0001]
    The present invention is directed to a consumer-oriented system for the delivery of frozen 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 frozen shelf life, and reduces spoilage.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    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.
  • [0003]
    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.
  • [0004]
    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.
  • [0005]
    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.
  • [0006]
    Grocery stores similarly may carry packages of frozen fruit, such as berries. Such packages may contain multiple servings of frozen fruit that is intended to be consumed at home. The fruit may include sugary syrups, and may be individually quick frozen but more frequently is frozen into a single, solid lump. To consume only a portion of such a package, the user may need to mechanically separate the desired portion from the lump, which may require manual strength or the use of a utensil, which is inconvenient and possibly even dangerous. Alternatively, the user may need to partially or fully thaw the entire package so as to more easily remove the desired portion, and then reclose the package and refreeze the remaining portions for future use. However, such a sequence of steps may be inconvenient and time-consuming. Moreover, the quality of the remaining portions may deteriorate upon being refrozen, and the remaining portions may solidify into a lump that is even more solid than when originally purchased. Even if it is not necessary to thaw and refreeze the fruit to obtain a portion from the package, the fruit within the reclosed package may deteriorate more rapidly within the freezer than in the original packaging, e.g., may experience freezer burn. Because of such inconveniences and inefficiencies, a household may purchase such a package of frozen fruit primarily if there is a particular recipe in which to use it, such as a smoothie or dessert.
  • [0007]
    Another category of frozen fruit-based products are single-serving snacks such as popsicles. The popsicles may include fruit puree or juice that may be mixed with a sugary syrup and frozen to form a solid bar. Such a process may remove many nutrients and fiber from the fruit, and the popsicles may be undesirably high in sugar to be eaten on a frequent basis. Low-sugar versions that contain artificial sweeteners also are available.
  • [0008]
    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.
  • [0009]
    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.
  • [0010]
    Despite the ubiquitous recognition that increased fruit consumption is desirable, the prior art is virtually devoid of practical solutions to provide single serving packaging for preservative-free fresh or frozen fruits, and especially convenient 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.
  • [0011]
    It would therefore be desirable to provide methods of processing and packaging fresh or frozen fruit that enhance ease of use and consumption, by providing single serving packaging that eliminates the need for utensils.
  • [0012]
    It further would be desirable to provide methods of processing and packaging fresh or frozen fruit that reduce the potential for contamination with pathogens, and reduce spoilage, by providing improved single serving packaging for fresh or frozen fruit.
  • [0013]
    It still further would be desirable to provide methods of processing and packaging fresh or frozen fruit that eliminates the need for sugary syrups or preservatives to preserve freshness, by providing preservative-free single serving fruit packaging for fresh or frozen fruit.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0014]
    In view of the foregoing drawbacks, the present invention provides methods of processing and packaging frozen fruit, and particularly fruit pieces, that enhance ease of use and consumption, reduce contamination and spoilage, improve frozen shelf-life and nutritional value, and facilitate the distribution of preservative-free frozen fruit pieces.
  • [0015]
    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 frozen or 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 frozen 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 freezing process that avoids heating the fruit pieces, and provides extended frozen shelf life for the package. Advantageously, the freezing process does not denature the fruit pieces, and has a negligible adverse effect on freshness, texture or taste.
  • [0016]
    In accordance with another aspect of the invention, apparatus is provided for the purpose of facilitating the consumption of frozen produce, eliminating pathogens, increasing shelf life, and for reducing spoilage. In various implementations of an embodiment, the consumer-oriented system for the delivery of frozen produce preferably includes some or all of the steps of: a) receiving fruit at a suitable temperature, e.g., between 38-50° F.; b) washing the fruit at a suitable temperature, e.g., 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) freezing the fruit. The package may include a tube that includes a substantially gas impermeable film and has a length, first and second ends, and a tearable zone near the first end and a lateral wall. The tube may be configured so that tearing the tearable zone creates an opening providing access to the quantity of frozen fruit pieces. The length of the tube may be 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. Preferably, the tube is configured so that squeezing the tube along the lateral wall from the second end to the first end ejects the frozen fruit pieces through the opening.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0017]
    The foregoing and other aspects of the invention are described in detail below in conjunction with the following figures:
  • [0018]
    FIGS. 1A and 1B are, respectively, perspective views of a sealed and opened single serving tube of frozen fruit pieces prepared in accordance with the principles of the present invention, where the fruit pieces are frozen grapefruit segments;
  • [0019]
    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;
  • [0020]
    FIG. 3 is an illustrative embodiment of a laminated film suitable for forming a single serving package of the present invention;
  • [0021]
    FIGS. 4A and 4B are, respectively, perspective views of a sealed and opened single serving tube of frozen fruit pieces prepared in accordance with the principles of the present invention, where the fruit pieces are frozen diced pineapple pieces;
  • [0022]
    FIGS. 5A and 5B are, respectively, perspective views of a sealed and opened single serving tube of frozen fruit pieces prepared in accordance with the principles of the present invention, where the fruit pieces are frozen pomegranate arils;
  • [0023]
    FIGS. 6A-6D are plan, perspective and side views of a single serving tray suitable for use with the present invention;
  • [0024]
    FIG. 7 is a flow chart showing the processing steps for preparing a single serving package of preservative-free frozen fruit pieces in accordance with the present invention; and
  • [0025]
    FIG. 8 is schematic illustration depicting the steps set forth in FIG. 7.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
  • [0026]
    According to one embodiment of the present invention, a unique consumer-oriented system for the delivery of frozen produce, especially frozen fruit pieces, including improved methods of safety and packaging is provided for the purpose of reducing or eliminating pathogens, increasing nutritional quality, increasing frozen shelf life, and for reducing spoilage. In particular, embodiments of the present invention provide single-serving packages of frozen fruit pieces that provide numerous advantages over previously known products based on frozen fruit. For example, the packages may have a size and shape that is particularly well suited for the fruit pieces to be eaten as a frozen snack. The fruit pieces may be individually quick frozen before insertion into the packaging so that they suitably may be eaten individually either by hand or by squeezing the package to pop the pieces directly into the consumer's mouth as desired. Alternatively, the fruit pieces may be frozen together into a mass after being inserted into the package, so as to provide the user with a more popsicle-type experience that may be squeezed out of the package and into the consumer's mouth. In either case, the fruit may be conveniently enjoyed in any desired location with significantly less hassle than practicable with previously known, relatively large packages of frozen fruit.
  • [0027]
    It should be appreciated that the single-serving packages of frozen fruit provided herein also may have significantly greater nutritional value than a popsicle. Indeed, because the packages preferably contain 100% fruit with no added ingredients, the packages not only may provide a delicious snack, but also may be consumed at any desired frequency so as to provide the health benefits of eating as many servings of whole fruit in a day, if desired. In comparison, a consumer may wish to eat no more than one popsicle a day, or even less. For parents of young children, the present packages of frozen fruit may provide an appealing way of encouraging fruit consumption.
  • [0028]
    Indeed, the present single-serving packages of frozen fruit even may provide enhanced nutritional value relative to fresh fruit available at a typical grocery store. In particular, the frozen fruit within the present packages suitably may be frozen at or near the site of origin, and maintained in that frozen state to the site of purchase by a consumer. Accordingly, the fruit may be allowed to fully ripen on the vine, then picked, and then frozen within hours of picking. Providing such a short time between picking and freezing may preserve a great deal of the fruit's nutritional value. In comparison, fresh fruit such as mangoes may be picked while it is unripe, and allowed to ripen over several weeks of transit until it reaches the grocery store. During this time the nutritional value of the fruit may deteriorate, and the flavor may be significantly poorer than it would have been if allowed to ripen on the plant. Accordingly, freezing and packaging the ripe fruit in the present single-serving packages may provide significant health benefits not only in that the fruit itself has greater nutritional value, but also in that because the fruit may be more delicious and more convenient to eat, that the consumer may wish to consume it in greater quantity and thus derive still greater health benefits.
  • [0029]
    In particular, the practice of packaging preservative-free frozen 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 process and freeze the fruit in such a way to prolong the frozen 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 frozen fruit pieces. This is a departure and a dramatic improvement over previously-known ways of consuming frozen fruit, which typically require a consumer to purchase a package containing a large quantity of frozen fruit and either chisel out a desired portion using a utensil or to fully or partially thaw the entire package, and then re-freeze the rest.
  • [0030]
    With the availability of the single serving “snack-packs” of bite-sized frozen fruit pieces prepared in accordance with the principles of the present invention, consumers will no longer have to worry about any of the above difficulties. Instead, with the single serving packaging prepared in accordance with the present invention, consumers may eat wholesome, preservative-free, frozen fruit anytime, anywhere.
  • [0031]
    Moreover, consumers should be able to purchase the frozen fruit packaged in accordance with the present invention from the freezer sections of most supermarkets, convenience stores or vending machines (in a manner similar to not so healthy counterpart snacks, such as popsicles) and consume that frozen fruit immediately, at the workplace, school, at the beach, or any other place conveniently, without utensils. In accordance with one aspect of the invention, the frozen fruit pieces can be pushed directly out of the single serving tube directly into the consumer's mouth, without utensils, because the frozen fruit pieces are already cut, diced, or processed to a bite-sized format that eliminates the need to wash, peel, freeze, thaw, or otherwise process the fruit prior to consumption. Alternatively, if the frozen fruit pieces are packaged in a tray, the single serve packaging also may include a fork, spoon or other disposable utensil.
  • [0032]
    In certain embodiments, the methods and packages provided herein can be used in connection with frozen fruits of all processed states. For example, the frozen 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.
  • [0033]
    In one embodiment provided herein is a method for packaging frozen fruit, comprising the steps of: receiving the fruit; washing the fruit; 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 single-serving package; and freezing the fruit before or after placing the fruit into the package.
  • [0034]
    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.
  • [0035]
    In certain embodiments, the term “produce” shall refer to fruit.
  • [0036]
    In certain embodiments, the term “produce” shall refer to vegetables.
  • [0037]
    Even though embodiments described below in the specification are primarily directed towards frozen fruits, frozen produce other than frozen fruits may be included.
  • [0038]
    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 frozen 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.
  • [0039]
    Referring now to FIGS. 1A and 1B, single serving preservative-free tube of frozen 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 frozen 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 frozen 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.
  • [0040]
    As shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B, a quantity of frozen fruit pieces 17 are disposed within tube 10, such that the fruit pieces are preservative-free. Frozen fruit pieces 17 may comprise individual whole units of fruit, such as grapes, berries (including raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, or boysenberries), segments or partial segments of citrus fruit, such as grapefruit or oranges, pomegranate arils, or chopped, diced, cubed or sliced pieces of fruit, such as mango, papaya, stone fruits, melon such as watermelon, honeydew, or or cantaloupe, pineapple, grapes, apples, bananas, dragonfruit, guava, kiwi, or berries, or even so-called “superfruits” such as goji berry, acai berries, or guanabana provided whole or in chopped pieces. Frozen fruit pieces 17 also may include mixtures of such fruits, such as a “tropical” mixture of pineapple, mango, and banana. 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 before or after freezing. Instead, the contents of tube 10 preferably constitute only “100% fruit” in accordance with USDA labeling standards.
  • [0041]
    A wide variety of fruits are suitable for single serving packaging in accordance with the present invention, including pineapple, mango, papaya, pomegranate, grapefruit, apple, banana, dragonfruit, guava, kiwi, guanabana, grapes, melon such as watermelon, honeydew, or cantaloupe, oranges, tangerines, peaches, nectarines and other stone fruit, as well as berries such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, goji berries, acai berries, or boysenberries. Depending upon the type of fruit, the fruit pieces may be either segmented, 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 or berries, whole units of fruit may be packaged in an individual, single serving package; such fruits alternatively may be chopped or diced.
  • [0042]
    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.
  • [0043]
    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 33 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 frozen 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 freezing.
  • [0044]
    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 frozen shelf life typically need not exceed one to two months, a thinner laminate of 30 to 80 microns, and more preferably 65-75 microns may be desired. If the frozen fruit pieces are chopped, diced or cubed, or if the frozen shelf life is expected to exceed six months or even twelve months, it may be preferable to use a thicker laminate film, such as 80 to 120 microns, to make the single serving package sufficiently rigid so as not to sag during handling. For retail packaging of bar form or chopped frozen 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 frozen fruit pieces, where a shelf life of from six months, twelve months, or more is desired, the thicker laminate film of 80 to 120 microns is preferred to withstand the freezing process.
  • [0045]
    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. Note that the fruit suitably may be frozen either before or after being packaged.
  • [0046]
    With respect to FIGS. 4A and 4B, single serving tube 40 of frozen 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 frozen 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 frozen 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.
  • [0047]
    FIGS. 5A and 5B depict single serving tube 50 containing frozen 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 frozen fruit pieces 51 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 56 causes frozen fruit pieces 51 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.
  • [0048]
    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 frozen fruit pieces, where and when the fruit pieces were processed and packaged, and information relating to the freezing lot. In addition the single serving package preferably is imprinted with manufacturer and branding information, as well as expiration and/or sell by dates.
  • [0049]
    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 frozen fruit pieces above slightly elevated above the bottom of the bowl, so as to reduce deterioration of the frozen 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.
  • [0050]
    In accordance with the principles of the present invention, during packaging, bowl portion 73 of base 71 may be 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.
  • [0051]
    In accordance with another aspect of the invention, base 71 and top film 72 permit single serving tray 70 to be frozen using the process described below with respect to FIGS. 7 and 8. Before or after the freezing 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. Alternatively, the fruit pieces may be individually quick frozen before filling the bowl with the fruit pieces and sealing and labeling the bowl.
  • [0052]
    Referring now to FIGS. 7 and 8, the consumer-oriented system for processing of frozen produce including improved methods of safety and packaging 100 includes Step 1 for receiving the fruit at a suitable temperature 101; Step 2 for washing the fruit at a suitable temperature 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 for placing the bite-sized fruit pieces into the packaging at 106; and Step 7 for freezing the fruit within the packaging at 107. Alternatively, the step of freezing the fruit pieces, e.g., individually quick freezing the fruit pieces, may be performed before the packaging step. Exemplary temperatures that may be used for some or all of Steps 1-6 may include the range of 38-50° F., although it should be understood that any suitable temperature may be used. Each of the steps illustrated in FIG. 7 is discussed in further detail below, and schematically illustrated in the like-numbered step of FIG. 8.
  • [0053]
    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 suitable temperature, for example between 38-50° F., at 101, to ensure that handling, processing, and packaging are done under a suitable temperature, for example at 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 a suitable temperature range. This is hereinafter referred to as the “cold chain”. The process described herein preferably maintains a temperature within the target range of 38-50° F. for the purpose of ensuring the freshness and sanitation of the fruit, although other temperatures suitably may be used.
  • [0054]
    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 or temperature as compared to an orange. Preferably, the step for washing the fruit is performed at a suitable temperature, for example 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 pathogens and fungi.
  • [0055]
    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. For certain fruits, such as berries, stems or caps may be removed, if present. At 104, Step 4, the fruit is segmented, 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. Steps 3 and 4 similarly may be performed at a suitable temperature, for example between 38-50° F. to maintain the cold chain.
  • [0056]
    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 suitable temperature, for example between 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 freezing step, and optionally may be omitted.
  • [0057]
    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 at a suitable temperature, for example 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.
  • [0058]
    At 107, Step 7, the sealed and labeled packages then are inserted into freezer 130 to freeze the fruit pieces; preferably, this process is performed at a temperature well below water's freezing point, causing the water inside the fruit to freeze in a very short period without forming large crystals, thus inhibiting damage to the fruit's cell membranes. Such a process may be referred to as “quick freezing.” In one example, the packages are frozen with refrigerated air at a temperature between −50 to +30° F., e.g., between −20 to 0° F. In another example, the packages are frozen by immersion in or blasting with liquid nitrogen (N2) at a temperature of approximately −321° F. In still another example, the packages are frozen by immersion in a mixture of ethanol (EtOH) and dry ice at a temperature of approximately −108° F. After the freezing process, the packages may washed with water or a food-safe solvent, if appropriate, and be maintained at a temperature of less than 32° F., e.g., at a temperature of about 10-30° F.
  • [0059]
    Alternatively, as noted above, the fruit pieces may be frozen at 107, Step 7 before the fruit is packaged at 106, Step 6. In such embodiments, after slicing the fruit 104, Step 4, and passing the fruit through a metal detection system 105, Step 5, if used, the fruit may be inserted into freezer 130 to freeze the fruit pieces. Preferably, the fruit pieces are spaced apart from one another, so that the pieces may be individually frozen, and preferably are individually quick frozen. The frozen fruit pieces then may be packaged 106 as described above, Step 6.
  • [0060]
    Additionally, note that different steps of the above process may be performed at different times, and in different locations, than one another. For example, the fruit may be received, washed, cored or skinned if appropriate, sliced if appropriate, and individually quick frozen at or near the site of origin, so as to allow the fruit to be picked in a fully ripe state, and to inhibit deterioration that otherwise may occur during transit. The frozen fruit then may be shipped to a separate facility for packaging into single-serving packages.
  • [0061]
    Advantageously, the packaging and freezing processes provided herein have has negligible effect on the taste, shape, texture and integrity of the fruit other than for placing it into a frozen state. Indeed, as noted above, the frozen fruit may have a higher nutritional value and greater sweetness than fruit that may have been picked in an unripe state and allowed to ripen during a relatively long transit from the site of origin to the grocery store.
  • [0062]
    The single serving package of the present invention may contain only one type of frozen fruit. Alternatively, the single serving package may comprise two or more different types of frozen fruit, which may be selected based upon their intrinsic nutritional makeup or flavor combination. The composite of these frozen 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 frozen 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 frozen fruits may be mixed and matched to achieve a particular nutritional metric in terms of vitamins, minerals, calories, carbohydrates, acids, or other quality, or to achieve a desirable flavor combination such as a “tropical” mixture of pineapple, mango, and banana. Alternatively, a box or bag of single serving packages of frozen fruit pieces may contain a selection of different frozen fruits in the individual single serving packages.
  • [0063]
    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 (25)

    What is claimed is:
  1. 1. A single serving package for frozen fruit pieces comprising:
    a tube comprising a substantially gas impermeable film, the tube having length, first and second ends, and a tearable zone near the first end and a lateral wall; and
    a quantity of frozen 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 frozen 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 frozen 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 frozen fruit pieces are individually quick frozen before being disposed within the tube.
  3. 3. The single-serving package of claim 1, wherein the tube is quick frozen after disposing the fruit pieces therein.
  4. 4. 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.
  5. 5. The single serving package of claim 1, wherein the laminate film has a thickness in the range of about 30 to 50 microns.
  6. 6. The single serving package of claim 1, wherein the tube is formed by a hot forming process.
  7. 7. The single serving package of claim 1, wherein the tube includes a gusset at the second end.
  8. 8. The single serving package of claim 1, wherein the tube is formed around the quantity of frozen fruit pieces.
  9. 9. The single serving package of claim 1, wherein the tube is formed prior to being filled with the quantity of frozen fruit pieces.
  10. 10. The single serving package of claim 1, wherein the tube, when sealed, has a headspace of less than 0.5 ounce.
  11. 11. The single serving package of claim 1, wherein the frozen fruit pieces have a frozen shelf-life of at least 12 months.
  12. 12. The single serving package of claim 1, wherein the frozen fruit pieces comprise:
    chopped or diced pineapple, mango, papaya, melon, apple, banana, dragonfruit, guava, kiwi, guanabana, or stone fruits, segments of orange or grapefruit or parts thereof, pomegranate arils, whole grapes, chopped or diced grapes, whole berries, or chopped or diced berries or a mixture thereof.
  13. 13. A method for packaging frozen fruit, comprising the steps of:
    receiving the fruit;
    washing the fruit;
    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 a quantity of fruit having an aggregate weight in a range of about 1.5 to 6.0 ounces into a package; and
    freezing the fruit,
    wherein the package comprises a tube comprising a substantially gas impermeable film, the tube having length, first and second ends, and a tearable zone near the first end and a lateral wall,
    wherein the tube is configured so that tearing the tearable zone creates an opening providing access to the quantity of frozen 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 frozen fruit pieces through the opening.
  14. 14. The method of claim 13, comprising individually quick freezing the fruit before placing the fruit into the package.
  15. 15. The method of claim 13, comprising quick freezing the fruit after placing the fruit into the package.
  16. 16. The method of claim 13, 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.
  17. 17. The method of claim 13, wherein the laminate film has a thickness in the range of about 30 to 50 microns.
  18. 18. The method of claim 13, wherein the tube is formed by a hot forming process.
  19. 19. The method of claim 13, wherein the tube includes a gusset at the second end.
  20. 20. The method of claim 13, wherein the tube is formed around the fruit.
  21. 21. The method of claim 13, wherein the tube is formed prior to being filled with the fruit.
  22. 22. The method of claim 13, wherein the tube, when sealed, has a headspace of less than 0.5 ounce.
  23. 23. The method of claim 13, wherein the frozen fruit pieces have a frozen shelf-life of at least 12 months.
  24. 24. The method of claim 13, wherein the frozen fruit pieces comprise: chopped or diced pineapple, mango, papaya, melon, apple, banana, dragonfruit, guava, kiwi, guanabana, or stone fruits, segments of orange or grapefruit or parts thereof, pomegranate arils, whole grapes, chopped or diced grapes, whole berries, or chopped or diced berries or a mixture thereof.
  25. 25. The method of claim 13, wherein the receiving and washing steps are performed at a temperature of about 38-50° F.
US13839481 2013-03-15 2013-03-15 Consumer oriented system for delivery of product including single-serving package for preservative-free frozen fruit pieces Abandoned US20140272017A1 (en)

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