«ΛA1 package for food products , particularly granular products"
The present invention relates to packages for food products according to the preamble of Claim 1. A package of this type, particularly adapted for granular products is known, for example, from US-A-3 872 996. Packages of a substantially similar sort are known, for example, from US-A-4 163 496 and US-A-4 538 731. In particular, in the solution described in US-A-3 872 996, the container, which also has the function of enabling controlled dispensing of a granular product such as tablets, pills, comfits or the like (for example tablets for refreshing the breath) , basically includes a parallelepipedal body having one open end, in which a lid or cap is inserted. The lid or cap consists preferably of a single piece of moulded plastic material and has 'an opening for dispensing the products having an approximately rectangular shape. The opening is closed by an oscillating tab, which is connected according to a general hinge-like conformation to the body of the cap and has a free or distal end which can extend (when a tab is in a position for closing the opening for supply of the products) in the proximity of one of the peripheral edges of the lid or cap. In this way, the tab can be conveniently engaged by the user, for example with his thumb, so as to enable raising thereof to disengage the opening . The tab and the edge of the opening usually carry associated thereto slotting or engaging elements (for example, according to a general tenon-and-mortise configuration) designed to withhold the tab in a position for closing the opening for supply of the products.
Packages of the above type have extensively been used for many years by the companies of the Ferrero group, for example for packaging pill-like sweets sold under the trade mark TIC TAC®. Packages of the type described have in the course of the years met with a considerable commercial success, with an extensive diffusion at a world level.
Precisely as a result of said extensive diffusion, it has been possible to ascertain that, in particularly adverse environmental conditions (for example very wet climates, to which there are usually associated rather high environmental temperatures), the action of sealing provided by the lid or cap (inserted or engaged in conditions of interference in the mouth part of the body of the container) and/or the action of sealing provided by the orientable tab on the opening for dispensing the products can at times prove insufficient to prevent even a modest penetration of humidity within the container. Said humidity can have negative effects on the product that is contained in the container, for example favouring a certain amount of adhesion between adjacent pellets.
In order to overcome this drawback, which can arise principally when the package is in a point of sale awaiting purchase, different solutions may • be envisaged .
For example, it has been proposed to render the entire mouth part of the container hermetic, with the cap applied as a lid thereon, immersing the head part of the package in a bath of paraffin. Albeit proving effective from the functional standpoint, this solution does not meet with particular approval in so far as, in addition to altering to a certain extent the appearance of the package, the sealing mass, which remains at least in part on the container after the package has
- been opened, tends in any case to be viewed as an element extraneous to the package itself.
Another solution that may be proposed is that of inserting the entire package in a sealed wrapper, which is to be removed when the products are to be taken out of the package. Independently of any other consideration, this solution ends up having an adverse effect on the character of attractiveness of the container, which, - it may be stated, meets with the consumer's approval .and attracts him precisely for the reason that it presents directly, when on display, in the form in which it is used.
This effect can be attenuated using a sealed wrapper, not for each package but to isolate hermetically a pack of containers presented, for example, in a point of sale. However, if this solution is adopted, the effect of hermetic protection is lost once the wrapper of the pack has been opened: the packages that remain unsold even in a reasonably short time after opening of the sealing wrapper are exposed to infiltration of humidity, since they are no longer protected.
A wide variety of solutions exist that somewhat aim at rendering a package fluid-tight: see, for instance, EP-A-O 093 440, EP-A-I 057 748, GB-A-I 176 291, GB-A-2 119 773 or WO-A-02/47997. Any other remark left aside, in all these cases one has to deal with arrangement that are rather complex and lend themselves badly to manufacturing on a very large scale and at a low unitary cost.
The object of the present invention is to provide a package which can prove in effect hermetically sealed in regard to the possible penetration of humidity on the outside, so preventing the drawbacks that can be encountered both by the solutions according to the
known art expressly documented previously and in the hypothetical alternative solutions which have briefly been mentioned.
According to the present invention, said purpose is achieved thanks to a package having the characteristics referred to specifically in the ensuing claims .
The invention will now be described, purely by way of non-limiting example, with reference to the annexed drawings, in which:
- Figures 1, 2 and 3 illustrate separately three elements forming the package described herein;
- Figures 4 and 5 represent two successive steps in the sequence of assembly of the package described herein;
- Figures 6 and 7 are two more detailed cross- sectional views, reproduced at an enlarged scale, respectively along the line VI-VI of Figure 2 and along the line VII-VII of Figure 4; and - Figure 8 shows a variant embodiment of one of the elements illustrated in the previous figures.
The package in the form of a container described herein purely by way of non-limiting example and designated as a whole by 1 is designed to be used, for example, for packaging and supply of products in the form of pellets such as pills, tablets, sweets or the like. These may, for example, be the sweets sold under the trade mark TIC TAC by the companies of the Ferrero group. Of course, reference to this possible application is in no way to be understood as in the least limiting the scope of the invention.
The package or container (hereinafter these two terms will be used as synonymous) 1 is made up basically of three parts or elements.
A first part is formed by a body 2 provided for containing the products. It is basically a hollow container body having a general bowl-like or cup-like conformation and preferably having an overall flattened shape with an approximately parallelepipedal conformation.
Preferably, as may be appreciated in all the figures of the annexed plate of drawings, the body 2 has a development at least slightly divergent starting from its bottom base 2a towards the mouth part, designated by 2b.
In use, the body 2, which is usually made of transparent plastic material (even though, of course, choices of a different type are possible) is designed to receive within it a filling of products in the form of pellets, schematically designated by P just in Figure 1.
The second element of the container 1 is formed by a lid 3 designed to be inserted as a cap (note, in particular, Figure 4) for closing the mouth part of the body 2.
The lid or cap 3 (further characteristics of which will be more fully described in what follows) is also usually made of plastic material, resorting preferably to an embodiment made of a single piece (also here, of course, choices of a different type are possible) .
Precisely because it is designed to perform a function of cap in regard to the body 2, the lid 3 has a conformation and dimensions exactly complementary to those of the mouth part 2b of the body 2.
In the exemplary embodiment illustrated herein, the body 2 (and in particular its mouth part 2b) , have a cross section of an elongated rectangular shape.
The lid 3, which is usually made (even though this, of course, does not constitute an imperative choice) of
a non-transparent plastic material, for example white, is designed to be engaged in the mouth part 2b of the body 2 according to the modalities that can be inferred more readily from the joint observation of Figures 4 and 7.
In particular, from Figure 7 it may be noted that the lid 3 is engaged in the mouth part of the body 2 in such a way as to be as a whole flush with the general plane, designated by X-X, in which the edges of the mouth part 2b of the body 2 are located.
In other words, in the solution described herein, the lid 3 is applied for closing the mouth part 2b of the body 2 so as to be flush (hence not projecting) with respect to the rim of the mouth part 2b itself. For direct comparison with the solutions according to the known art referred to in the introductory part of the present description (for example, US-A-3 872 996) , it can be noted that - in said known solutions - the lid or cap is not flush with the mouth part of the body 2 but, instead, projects to a more or less marked extent above and outside the body 2 itself, so as to form a sort of peripheral edge or flange designed to ensure firm resting in a relationship of contrast of the lid 3 against the mouth part 2b of the body 2. In the embodiment presented herein by way of example, the aforesaid effect of contrast (designed to cause the lid 3 to reach and maintain a precise axial location with respect to the body 2) is instead obtained by providing, usually in a position corresponding to the smaller sides of the mouth part 26 of the container 2, two shoulders 4 (see 'figure 7) designed to form surfaces of contrast for two step-like formations 5 provided on the outer surface of the lid 3 (see figure 3), always - preferably - in a position corresponding to the smaller sides thereof.
Once again from the cross-sectional view of Figure 7 it will be appreciated that, to facilitate the formation of the shoulders 4, it is usually envisaged that, at least in a position corresponding to the smaller sides, the mouth part 2b of the body 2 will present thickened portions designated by 6 in the drawing .
From the figures, and in particular, from Figure 1 it will be appreciated again that, in a position corresponding to one of its smaller sides, the rim of the mouth part 2b of the body 2 has a general notch- like formation 7. Said formation is designed to cause one of the end faces (the smaller ones) of the lid 3 to face in any case said notch 7 so as to be accessible on the outside. This result is obtained even though, as has already been said, the body 3 as a whole is engaged in the body 2 in such a way as to remain completely beneath the plane X-X of the mouth of the body 2 and in any case flush with the rim of the mouth part 26, including the notch-like formation 7.
In this way, it is taken into account that, as on the other hand occurred already with the various solutions according to the known art referred to previously, the lid 3 is designed not only to function as cap for the container 1 but also to perform the function for controlled supply of the products P.
In the case in point, it will be sufficient to recall that, in the currently preferred embodiment, the lid 3 preferably has a general tray-like or bowl-like conformation (complementary to that of the body 2 in the position of coupling with the body 2 itself) . The lid 3 hence includes a core wall 8 of rectangular shape and a peripheral skirt wall 9 with four sides, two larger ones and two smaller ones. The step-like
formations 5 are obtained in a position corresponding to the two smaller sides of the skirt wall 9.
Of course, the specific configuration of parts and elements described and illustrated herein, albeit currently preferred, is not to be interpreted as in any way limiting the scope of the invention.
As may be appreciated immediately from Figure 7, the configuration of insertion of the lid 3 within the body 2 envisages that the skirt wall 9 of the lid 3 will be engaged in the body 2, preferably with a certain interference (possibly rendered more marked by the presence of ribbings, as described and illustrated in US-A-3 872 996) , whilst the core wall 8 extends exactly in a position corresponding to the plane X-X of the mouth (to be more precise, just beneath the aforesaid plane) . At the same time, one of the smaller sides of the skirt wall 9 at least partially faces outwards through the notch 7.
In the core wall 8 of the lid 3 (formed preferably, as has already been said, by a single piece of moulded plastic material) there is provided an opening 10 for dispensing the products (note in particular Figure 6) which is designed to be selectively closed by an orientable-tab part 11. The tab 11, which is formed preferably of a single piece with the core wall.8, is selectively orientable, as schematically illustrated in Figures 6 and 7, so as to enable selective coverage (and hence closing) or else disengagement (and hence opening) of the opening 10.
In particular, in the cross-sectional view of Figure 7 the tab 11 is represented in three different positions of its movement of orientation with respect to the lid 3, namely: - a closing position, represented by a solid line;
- an opening position, represented by a dashed line; and
- an intermediate position, represented by a chain line . In Figure 6 the tab 11 is represented in a position approximately corresponding to the opening position.
The representation in question is aimed at facilitating an understanding of the fact that, within the tab 11, there are in general distinguishable: - a proximal end 11a, in a position corresponding to which the tab 11 is hinged to the core wall 8 of the lid 3; the hinging action is usually rendered possible by means of a portion of the core wall 8 of reduced thickness (to be noted in fact is the general tapering of the proximal end 11a, as represented in the figures) ; and
- a distal end lib, which, when the tab 11 is in a closing position, comes practically to bear upon the top edge of the smaller side of the skirt surface 9 of the lid 3 facing the notch 7.
Even though this choice is not in itself imperative (and is in any case linked to the dimensions of the products P dispensed) , the proximal end 11a of the tab 11 is in a position approximately median with respect to the general development of the core wall 8. It follows that the tab 11 has a length, comprised between its ends 11a and lib, approximately equal to one half (preferably at least slightly greater) of the homologous dimension of the core wall 8 of the lid 3. It should be emphasized yet again that these dimensional data correspond to preferential, but in no way imperative, choices also because they are in themselves unimportant as regards the specific question described herein.
In a preferred way, the larger sides of the opening
10 are at least slightly divergent from one another towards the outside of the opening 10 itself so as to bestow upon the opening 10 a general flared conformation. The tab 11 has a complementary profile
(hence with a trapezoidal wedge-shaped cross section) , aimed at improving the action of hermetic sealing of the opening 10 by the tab 11 when the tab is closed and pressed against the opening 10. In the proximity of the distal end lib, the tab 11 carries, on its inner face (i.e., the one facing the body of the lid 3) an engaging formation 12 designed to co-operate with a complementary formation 13 provided on the top edge of the smaller side of the skirt wall 9 of the body 3 designed to face the outside of the container 1 through the notch 7.
A particularly preferred choice for the construction of the complementary formations 12 and 13 is the one based upon a modality of tenon-and-mortise coupling. Once again it is to be noted that said choice, albeit preferred, is not to be considered as in any way imperative.
Once the lid/cap 3 is engaged in the mouth part 2b of the body 2, the container 1 (which is assumed as having been previously filled with the products P) takes on the general conformation represented in Figure 4. In the same figure, the tab 11 is represented in its closing position, in which the tab 11 itself closes the opening 10 for dispensing the products, whilst the distal end lib is accessible from the outside for being manoeuvred by the user, for example with his thumb, through the notch 7.
In these conditions, on the top part of the container 1 a sealing strip 14 is applied which assumes
preferably the form of a removable label having the characteristics better represented in Figure 3.
The label 14 lends itself to be produced both as a unitary piece (according to the solution to be described in detail hereinafter) and as a combination of two (or more) elements (according to the solution to be described later on "in connection with figure 8) : this is the reason why "at least one strip" is being called for in the claims. In particular, in the sealing strip/label 14 (which constitutes the third part or component of the container 1) there are distinguishable:
- a central body 14a, designed to be applied on the top surface of the container (body 2 closed on top by the lid/cap 3) , hence basically in a position corresponding to the plane X-X of Figure 2; and
- two side tabs 14b designed to be turned up on the larger sides of the body 2, as better illustrated in Figure 5. The presence of the side flaps 14b is designed to consolidate the body 14a in its position and function of sealing, described in greater detail hereinafter. Furthermore, the side flaps 14b are suited to the application of printed matter, hence to the application of wordings identifying the product P, including possible wordings corresponding to the composition and to the site of production, which are dictated by standards currently in force, as well as for the possible application of bar codes andt similar elements. The person skilled in the sector will, however, appreciate the fact that the presence of the side flaps 14b (or even of just one of them), although preferred, is not imperative.
As has been said, the part of body 14a of the label 14 is designed to be applied on the top part of the
container (in practice, in a position corresponding to the plane X-X of Figure 7, preferably folded, for a stretch, on the side wall of the body 2) so as to enable an action of hermetic sealing between: - the side walls of the mouth part 2b of the body 2 and the sides of the core wall 8 (corresponding in effect to the top margins of the sides of the skirt wall 9) of the lid 3; and
- the sides of the tab 11 and the homologous sides of the opening 10.
In view of the fact that, at least in the embodiment illustrated herein, there is present the notch 7, the aforesaid - double - sealing is to be provided also in a position corresponding to the notch 7 itself.
For this reason, the central part 14a of the label 14 has an appendage 140a which, as is more clearly represented in Figures 1 and 5, is designed to be, so to speak, turned up against the notch 7 so as to extend the action of sealing also to the area around the notch itself.
In a similar way, it is preferable that, also at the end opposite to the notch 7, the central part 14a of the label 14 can be turned up against the smaller homologous edge of the body 2 in order to provide a further improvement in the action of hermetic sealing.
The reference 140b designates a side extension of the appendage 140a, which is designed to enable the user, when he proceeds to opening the package thus made, to lift/tear the appendage 140a so as to be able to act on the outside of the distal end lib of the tab 11 and to open the container, bringing the tab 11 into the opening position.
This movement of opening entails of course tearing of the central part of the label 14a in an area
corresponding to the edges of the opening 10 or else detachment of the portion 14a from the body of the container in a position corresponding to said sides.
As regards the modes of application of the label 14 on the container 1, it is possible to resort to different modalities.
In general, an adhesive connection (above all when the label extends over the top surface of the container identified by the plane X-X of Figure 7 and the rim of the notch 7 with a further consolidating action, ensured by the side flaps 14b) has been proved - according to the experiments conducted by the present applicants - such as to ensure a level of hermetic seal amply satisfactory for the areas of application considered.
This is achieved also thanks to the flared configuration of the opening 10 and the complementary trapezoidal wedge-shaped configuration of the cross section of the tab 11. A particularly valid alternative is represented by the possible recourse, at least in the central portion 14a (and 140a) of the label 14, .to heat sealing. In this case, the label 14 can advantageously be made starting from a so-called "coupled" material, which presents, on the side that is to be applied against the container 1, a layer of heat-sealable resin.
Yet a further alternative is represented by recourse to a mechanism of ultrasound welding.
Even though all of the various alternatives delineated above are practicable, the experiments conducted by the applicants show that the currently preferable solution envisages that the central part 14a of the label 14 is welded on the top part of the container so as to guarantee hermetic sealing thereof.
For this purpose, the aforesaid central part consists preferably of water vapour-tight and oxygen- tight heat-sealable material.
A particularly preferred embodiment (corresponding, however, to a possible non-limiting exemplary embodiment of the invention) is the one described in what follows:
- the central part 14a, which is designed to be heat-sealed or ultrasound-welded to seal each point of coupling of the "cap 3 to the body 2 (both on the top surface and on the end side surfaces, in particular in the portion 140a that is to cover the notch 7), is formed by an external layer of aluminium, an intermediate layer of paper, and a bottom or internal layer of heat-sealing resin; and
- the side parts 14b of the label 14 (which are to be applied by gluing) are formed by an external layer of aluminium, an intermediate layer of paper, and a bottom or internal layer of adhesive. Obviously, the one cited above is a composition which can be applied but is not exclusive in the sense that there exist other possible applications that employ, for example, polypropylene or yet other compositions instead of aluminium. As has already been indicated previously, • the application of the label 14 (in particular of the central portion 14a on the container 1) can come about either in two steps (as indicated previously, with the appendage 140a turned up to seal the notch 7 subsequently) or else in a single step, for example by resorting to a tool which presents a general L-shaped configuration with two branches respectively corresponding to the plane X-X and to the plane in which the rim of the notch 7 extends.
As already stated in the foregoing, the label 14 lends itself to be produced, as an alternative to a unitary piece (according to the solution described in the foregoing) , as a combination of two (or more) elements.
Specifically, figure 8, to be considered by way of direct comparison to figure 3, shows a variant where the label 14 is comprised of two distinct elements that constitute : - the central part or portion 14d (having associated the lids/appendages 140a and 140b), and the side parts 14b, which are connected by a central web 14a' to be superposed to the central part 14a. The remarks made in the foregoing, especially as regards the criteria adopted for application on/connection to the body of the container, apply directly also to the "two part" arrangement shown in figure 8. In the case of the arrangement of figure 8, the following criteria are however preferred, especially having regard to manufacturing efficiency:
- the central portion or part 14a is heat welded onto the upper surface of the lid so as to ensure sealing of the lid and the mouth portion 2b of the container body 2 as well as sealing of the closure tab 11 and the opening 10 for dispensing the products, thus ensuring hermetic sealing of the package;
- the other element or part of the label, including the side parts 14b, connected by the central web 14a' , is then adhesively connected astride the upper part of the container body 2, with the two side parts 14b adhering to the side walls of the container body 2 and the web 14a' superposed to the central part 14a in.
order to strengthen the sealing action produced thereby .
Other possible variants of the arrangement described herein include, but are not limited to: - the possibility of making the container body 2 and the lid 3 not as distinct elements but in the form of a single piece of material, for .example injection- moulded plastic material; in this case, the lid 3 is usually moulded in a position projected on the outside of the container body 2 and then turned up within the body 2 in the position represented in Figure 4;
- the possibility of adopting, for the container 1 and its component parts, a shape different from the shape represented herein; for example, a shape with a square, ovoidal or semi-ovoidal, or polygonal cross section, etc . ;
- the modality adopted for blocking the lid 3 in the desired position of insertion/engagement in the body 2: as an alternative to the shoulders 4 represented herein as localized in a position corresponding to the smaller sides of the body 2 and of the lid 3, it is possible to resort, for example, to elements arranged in a position corresponding to the larger sides or the four corners, or to a system of conical coupling, etc.; and
- the criteria adopted for formation of the opening 10 for dispensing the products and for closing thereof (for example by sliding, or with a mechanism of engagement presenting a circular cross section) . Of course, without prejudice to the principle of the invention, the details of construction and the embodiments may vary even to a very marked extent with respect to what is described and illustrated herein, without thereby departing from the scope of the invention as defined by the annexed claims.