CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/202,746, filed Mar. 31, 2009.
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to food packaging and transport, and particularly to a combination carrier and insulated food containers that provides a plurality of food containers that have an integral common carrier.
2. Description of the Related Art
Although insulating food containers are well known, conventional containers typically only include a single, open interior, thus only providing for the storage of a single type of food. If multiple foods must be stored, either multiple containers must be used, or the differing foods must be mixed. Similarly, such conventional containers are not well adapted for storing both hot and cold foods simultaneously.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The mixing of foods may be undesirable for the user (and is not recommended when one food is meant to be served hot and the other cold), and the carrying of multiple containers can be inconvenient. It would be desirable to provide a food carrier for the simultaneous transport of both hot and cold food, or differing types of food, in a safe, convenient manner, which further lends itself to the presentation of both wholesome, nutritious and appetizing foods upon delivery. Thus, a combination carrier and insulated food containers solving the aforementioned problems is desired.
The combination carrier and insulated food containers provides a food storage device, having a plurality of thermally insulated containers for holding a variety of different types of food. The carrier is preferably substantially planar in shape and has a plurality of openings formed therethrough. Preferably, each opening is substantially circular.
Each food container includes a lower wall, at least one sidewall, and an open upper end, the container defining an open interior region for receiving food. Each container is formed from a thermal insulation material, such as plastic. Each container may be configured as a conventional insulating thermos or the like. A rim portion is formed along an upper edge of the at least one sidewall adjacent the open upper end of each container. Each food container is secured to or integral with the substantially planar carrier so that each respective rim portion projects through or above a respective one of the openings. The containers are permanently fixed to the substantially planar carrier. A plurality of covers are further provided, with each cover releasably sealing a respective open upper end of one of the plurality of food containers.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
These and other features of the present invention will become readily apparent upon further review of the following specification and drawings.
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a combination carrier and insulated food containers according to the present invention.
FIG. 2 is a partially exploded, perspective view of the combination carrier and insulated food containers of FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 is a plan view of the combination carrier and insulated food containers of FIG. 1.
FIG. 4A is a plan view of an alternative embodiment of a combination carrier and insulated food containers according to the present invention.
FIG. 4B is a plan view of another alternative embodiment of a combination carrier and insulated food containers according to the present invention.
- DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
Similar reference characters denote corresponding features consistently throughout the attached drawings.
Referring to FIG. 1, there is shown a combination carrier and insulated food containers 10. The combination carrier and insulated food containers 10 provides a food storage device having a plurality of thermally insulated containers 12 for holding a variety of different types of food. The carrier 14 is preferably substantially planar and has a plurality of openings 17 formed therethrough for access to the containers 12. Although shown as having substantially circular openings defined by annular container rims 20 (as will be described in detail below, with particular reference to FIG. 2), it will be understood that openings 17 may have any desired shape, depending upon the dimensions and configuration of the food containers 12. Additionally, carrier 14 may have any desired dimension and configuration. Preferably, carrier 14 is formed from a relatively lightweight thermal insulation material, such as plastic, stainless steel or the like. An opening 18 is preferably formed through carrier 14, providing a handle or gripping portion for the user. It should be understood that the substantially triangular opening in the Figures is shown for exemplary purposes only, and that the opening 18 may have any desired dimensions or contouring.
Each food container 12 includes a lower wall 15, at least one sidewall 13 and an open upper end, and defines an open interior region for receiving food. Although shown as being substantially cylindrical, it should be understood that each container 12 may have any desired dimension and configuration. Each container 12 is formed from a thermally insulated material, such as plastic, and is preferably configured as a conventional insulating thermos or the like. Containers 12 may be any suitable type of insulated containers, such as glass-vacuum thermos bottles, or double-wall insulated thermos bottles with a stainless steel interior surface. As an alternative, separate glass-vacuum thermos bottles may be provided as removable and replaceable units within permanently fixed containers 12. This would allow easy replacement of the thermos bottles if broken.
As best shown in FIG. 2, a container rim portion 20 is formed by an upper edge of the at least one sidewall 13 about the open upper end of each container 12. Each food container 12 is secured to or integral with the substantially planar carrier 14 so that each respective rim portion 20 projects above and defines respective one of the container openings 17. The containers 12 are permanently fixed to the substantially planar carrier 14. Containers 12 may be molded with carrier 14 during manufacture, to form a one-piece unit, or may be permanently fixed thereto via any other suitable method.
A plurality of covers 16 are further provided, with each cover 16 releasably sealing a respective open upper end of one of the plurality of food containers 12. In FIG. 2, substantially circular covers 16 are shown engaging a threaded outer surface 22 of each rim 20. It should be understood that covers 16 may have any dimension or configuration (e.g., covers 16 may be snap-on square or rectangular covers, depending upon the shape of containers 12 and corresponding rims 20), depending upon the dimension and configuration of containers 12 and their respective rim portions 20. Further, any suitable type of attachment for forming a fluid-tight seal may be used to releasably secure covers 16 to containers 12. As an alternative, covers 16 may be formed having expansible forks or other utensils fixed therein. Such covers for thermoses and the like are known in the art and may, for example, include upper and lower cover portions, which are joined to one another by threaded attachment or the like, and define an interior region therein. The fork or other utensil is provided within this interior region, generally stored as two separate portions, which may be joined together for use.
FIGS. 1-3 illustrate a first embodiment including a pair of containers 12, secured to a substantially elliptical, planar carrier 14. As noted above, carrier 14 may have any desired dimension and configuration. Further, any desired number of containers 12 may be utilized. FIG. 4A illustrates an exemplary alternative embodiment in which four insulated food containers 12 are supported by a substantially rectangular or square, planar carrier 14. FIG. 4B illustrates another exemplary alternative embodiment in which three such insulated food containers 12 are supported by a substantially triangular planar carrier 14. Preferably, the corners of carrier 14 are rounded, as shown, for ease of handling by the user.
The plurality of separate containers 12 are provided so that the user can easily transport multiple types and portions of food without the various types and portions of food mixing together. Because each container 12 is insulated both from the environment and from one another, both hot and cold foods may be transported together using the combination carrier and insulating food containers 10. Preferably, each container 12 in a single unit 10 has identical size and shape with respect to the other containers 12 in the unit, though it should be understood that the combination carrier and insulating food containers 10 may be manufactured in a variety of differing sizes and shapes. The combination carrier and insulating food container 10 may further be provided with a carrying bag, which is shaped and dimensioned to receive the particularly shaped article 10 (i.e., rectangular, triangular, etc.). Such a carrying bag preferably would include an open end and a carrying handle or the like.
It is to be understood that the present invention is not limited to the embodiments described above, but encompasses any and all embodiments within the scope of the following claims.