FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The invention relates to dispensing containers for food packages or other small packages.
Dispensing containers have been used for many years to hold smaller packages containing various materials. Generally such containers have a cavity for holding the smaller packages to be dispensed. The smaller packages may be those commonly referred to as “stick packs” and may contain individual portions of a given material. By way of example, such containers may be used in a retail setting, such as a supermarket, for dispensing smaller packages of product to customers. These containers may have various open ended configurations for allowing users to withdraw packages from the container. In a case where the packages being dispensed are elongated, it may be desirable to arrange them in a relatively vertical orientation. Such packages are generally withdrawn upwards, by lifting them from the container.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
In many prior dispensing containers, the entire upper end of the container is open, facilitating withdrawal of the packages therein. However, this allows a user to withdraw a large number of packages at a time. In certain settings, it may be desirable to limit or regulate the number of packages which can be withdrawn.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The present invention relates to a system for relatively small dispensing packages. The system includes a container having top and bottom panels with upwardly extending side panels therebetween. The side panels have rear portions spaced apart from each other. From the spaced rear portions, the side panels converge towards one another and forwardly to a front apex. A dispensing opening is provided through an upper front portion of the converging side walls and a portion of the top panel, adjacent the front apex. The dispensing opening is sized to limit the number of packages that can be simultaneously withdrawn from the container. The container may tilted forward such that, upon the withdrawal of one package through the dispensing opening, other packages stacked behind the removed package will slide into place adjacent the front apex and be exposed through the mouth of the container.
For the purpose of illustrating the invention, there is shown in the drawings a form which is presently preferred; it being understood, that this invention is not limited to the precise arrangements and instrumentalities shown.
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of dispensing container according to an embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 2 is an exploded view of the dispensing container shown in FIG. 1
FIG. 3 is a front elevational view of the dispensing container shown in FIGS. 1 and 2.
FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional side view of the dispensing container as taken along line 4-4 in FIG. 3.
FIG. 5 is a front elevational view of multiple dispensing containers mounted on a rack, according to a further embodiment of the present invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 6 is a side elevational view of the dispensing containers shown in FIG. 5.
In the figures, where like reference numerals indicate like elements, there is shown an embodiment of a dispensing system for packages. The dispensing system is generally referred to by the numeral 10 and provides a way to dispense packages, such as in a retail setting. The dispensing system 10 dispenses the packages in a way that limits the number of packages which can be withdrawn by a user.
The dispensing system 10 is used to dispense packages 12, such as “stick packs”. Although the figures show stick packs, any type of package 12 may be used in the dispensing system of the present invention. The packages 12 are preferably elongated, having a height which is substantially larger than the width and depth. By substantially larger, it is meant that the height of the packages 12 is at least about 150% of the width or depth.
Referring now to FIGS. 1 and 2, the dispensing system 10 is shown having a container 14 and a plurality of packages 12 contained therein. The packages 12 stand next to each other in the container; in a vertical arrangement or the package height being less than the internal height of the container 14. The container 14 has a bottom panel 25 (shown in FIG. 3) and a top panel 16. In the embodiment shown, the top and bottom panels 16, 25 extend in planes that are substantially parallel to one another. However, the two panels 16, 25 need not be formed parallel. The bottom panel 25 also defines the footprint of the container 14; which, as illustrated, is generally triangular with rounded corners. It is contemplated that various footprint profiles may be used within the scope of this invention.
Side panels 18, 20 and a rear panel 22 (shown in FIG. 3) extend upwardly from the outer edges of the bottom panel 25 to the top panel 16. The panels 18, 20, 22 are all preferably of the same height. The side panels 18, 20 converge towards each other as they extend forwardly from either side of the rear panel 22, joining at a front apex 24. The front apex 24 shown here is simply a transition between the side panels 18, 20. The front apex 24 may be any structure joining the side panels 18, 20. By way of example, the front apex 24 may be a sharp point, rounded edge or angled. Alternatively, the front apex 24 may be a separate panel from the side panels 18, 20, for example, extending laterally between the side panels 18, 20.
A dispensing opening 32 extends through an upper portion of the side panels 18, 20 and the front apex 24. An upper edge 34 of the opening 32 is defined by the top panel 16 and a lower edge 36 of the opening 32 is defined by the side panels 18, 20 at the front apex 24. The dispensing opening 32 is sized to facilitate the withdrawal of a limited number of packages 12 therethrough, while the remainder of packages 12 remain covered, inside of the container 14. As will be described below in more detail, the dispensing opening 32 has a depth from the front Apex 24 of the container 14, and a width which are small enough to prevent a user from withdrawing more than a selected number of packages 12 from the container 14. This is particularly beneficial in a retail setting where proprietors often desire to limit the number of packages that can be withdrawn at a time.
FIGS. 1 and 2 show the container 14 mounted atop an angled base 26 that is structured to tilt the container 14 forward. When viewed from the side, as shown in FIG. 4, the base 26 has a wedge shaped profile. The angled base 26 has a top surface 28 with a rear portion 28 a that is positioned above the front portion 28 b. When the container 14 is placed on the angled base 26, the container 14 is tilted forward so that the bottom panel 25, proximate the front apex 24, defines the lowest part of the container's interior. The base 26 may have other profiles, and need not have a flat upper face. Preferably, the base 26 is adapted to engage the bottom of the container 14 and retain the container in the tilted position.
The angled base 26 is preferably shaped to match the footprint of the container 14, which in this embodiment is a generally triangular with rounded corners. A rim 30 extends around the perimeter of the base 26. The container 14 fits within the rim 30 and is engaged thereby.
FIG. 3 shows a front view of the dispensing system 10, including the dispensing opening 32 and a number of packages 12 located inside the container 14. In the embodiment shown, the dispensing opening 32 has its widest point at its upper edge 34. This width of the opening, such as at edge 34, is preferably slightly larger than twice the width of one of the packages 12. The dispensing opening 32 may vary in width between at least the width of one package 12 to as many as three or four package widths. Generally, this variation will depend on the desired number of packages to be withdrawn simultaneously.
Typically the width range will also vary based on the type of package 12 being dispensed and where the container will be used. For example, in a retail setting, it may be desirable to only allow 1-2 packages to be withdrawn at a time. The width of the opening 32 narrows slightly between the wider upper edge 34 and the slightly narrower lower edge 36. This tapered configuration facilitates withdrawal of the packages 12 through the opening 32. Alternatively, the sides of the dispensing opening 32 may be vertically oriented.
The front edge 36 of the opening 32 is preferably high enough for the front apex 24 to cover at least half of the package 12. In this respect, a desired range of a front apex 24 by height is about 50-90% of the package height; thus exposing from 10%-50% of the package through the dispensing opening 32.
A side view of the dispensing system 10 is shown in FIG. 4. This view highlights the tilt of the container 14, the generally vertical arrangement of the packages 12 within the container, and the depth of the dispensing opening 32 in relation to the front apex 24. The tilt of the container 14 is sufficient to facilitate the movement of the packages 12 towards the front of the container 14 upon the withdrawal of the package 12 a closest to the apex 24. Thus, access is ultimately provided to the entire contents, even though the number of packages 12 that can be withdrawn at a time is limited by the size of the dispensing opening 32. The tilt of the container 14 is preferably sufficient to prevent the packages from leaning backwards against the rear panel 22; ensuring that, when packages are located in the container, at least one of the packages 12 is accessible via the dispensing opening 32.
The upper edge 34 of the dispensing opening 32 is spaced back from the front of the container 14 to allow the dispensing opening 32 to expose a selected number of packages 12. The depth of the dispensing opening 32 may vary. It is desirable to configure the size of the dispensing opening 32 to the desired use of the dispensing system 10. In alternative embodiments, the upper edge 32 may be some configuration other than straight, and the opening depth may not necessarily correspond to opening width.
As shown best in FIGS. 3 and 4, the converging sidewalls 18, 20 and the tilt of the container 14 facilitate the movement of a package 12 to a position adjacent the dispensing opening 32, upon the removal of another package 12 through the opening 32. The angles of the sidewalls 18, 20 and the bottom panel 25 create a funnel effect, shuffling the packages towards the dispensing opening 32 and front apex 24. Within the container 14, the packages 12 lean forward against the side panels 18, 20 and the front apex 24 at an angle that will facilitate their continued movement towards the dispensing opening 32 without binding. For example, and referring to FIG. 4, as the front package 12 a is lifted upwardly and out of the container 14, the second package 12 b slides into the vacated space.
Referring now to FIGS. 5 and 6, the dispensing system 10 may be adapted for mounting on a rack 38. Preferably, the rear panel 22 contains a mounting apparatus for engaging the rack 38. The rack is shown as having a back plate 40 and arms 42 extending outward to the mounting points. It is desirable that each dispensing container 10 be mounted in a forward tilted position so that the functionality described above remains the same. The containers 14 may engage the arms 42 in any known way, such as being slid on mounting rails, frictional engagement, a snap fit, threads, adhesives or any other means. Although not shown, the rack 38 may also provide a number of bases, similar to the base 26 discussed above.
In use, a package is pulled in a substantially vertical direction, shown by the arrow A in FIG. 4, out of the dispensing opening 32. The direction of withdrawal may have a component towards the front of the container 14, but this is generally limited by the bottom edge 36 of the dispensing opening 32 and the packages 12 behind the package 12 being withdrawn.
The withdrawal of a package 12 creates a cavity in the container 14, proximate the front apex 24. This cavity opens first at the bottom of the container, and as the package is withdrawn, extends up, until the front package 12 a is completely withdrawn. Because of the tilt of the container 14 and the converging side panels 18, 20, the bottom of the second package 12 b will generally move forward first, followed by the rest of the package. Upon the complete withdrawal of the first package 12 a, the second package 12 b will move into place for subsequent withdrawal. This process is repeated until the container 14 is empty.
The container 14 may be made of any number of materials, such as polyethylene or polypropylene. Also, the container may be made using unitary construction, or one or more panels may be removable. The packages 12 may be constructed of plastic, foil, paper or some other material.
A variety of modifications to the embodiments described will be apparent to those skilled in the art from the disclosure provided herein. Thus, the invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from the spirit or essential attributes thereof and, accordingly, reference should be made to the appended claims, rather than to the foregoing specification, as indicating the scope of the invention.