Patent application title: INSERT FOR BEVERAGE CONTAINER
Leigh David Carter (Essex, GB)
Neal Harvey (York, GB)
Allen Clovis (York, GB)
DIAGEO GREAT BRITAIN LIMITED
IPC8 Class: AB65D8120FI
Class name: Special receptacle or package including ancillary article contacting medium gas medium
Publication date: 2010-07-01
Patent application number: 20100163436
An insert for disposal in a beverage container includes a chamber for
containing a volume of fluid, e.g. a flavor component, an inlet valve to
permit gas to enter the chamber, an outlet valve to permit fluid to exit
the chamber. In a preferred form, the insert is connected to suspend from
a lid or crown closure of a beverage container.
1. An insert for disposal in a beverage container including:a chamber for
containing a volume of fluid;a permeable material to permit gas to enter
the chamber; andan outlet valve to permit fluid to exit the chamber.
2. The insert of claim 1 wherein the outlet valve is a stop valve.
3. The insert of claim 2 wherein the valve opens against a bias.
4. The insert of claim 3 wherein the stop valve includes a stem moulded from resilient material to provide the bias.
5. The insert of claim 4 wherein the stem is tubular.
6. The insert of claim 4 wherein the resilient material is a Thermo Plastic Elastomer (TPE).
7. The insert of claim 2 wherein the stop valve includes a stem and a skirt.
8. The insert of claim 7 wherein the skirt is annular.
9. The insert of claim 8 wherein the stop valve includes a guide means at the base of which is the annular skirt then extending to the stem.
10. The insert of claim 7 wherein there is a cap to provide an abutment for the stem and a receiving part to provide an abutment for the skirt.
11. The insert of claim 10 wherein the cap has a protrusion to locate the stem.
12. The insert of claim 11 wherein the guide means is cruciform or block shaped.
13. The insert of claim 1 wherein the insert includes a catch means so it can be attached to a beverage container package, e.g. under a lid.
14. The insert of claim 1 wherein the gas-permeable material is located at or forms a wall of the chamber.
15. The insert of claim 1 wherein the insert is formed substantially from the gas permeable material.
16. A method of filling an insert according to claim 1, and disposing same in a beverage container, including: flushing oxygen from the insert chamber in an oxygen-free environment, filling a volume of liquid into the chamber, leaving a headspace, sealing the chamber, disposing the insert inside a beverage container, temporarily sealing a shroud over the container opening and pressurising a headspace of the container, sealing a closure on the container.
The present invention relates to an insert for a beverage container of the type commonly known as a "widget".
Widget technology is well established in the beverage industry. These devices were developed as a means of injecting gas into a beverage upon opening a container e.g. an aluminium can. The injection of gas causes improved head formation.
The general principle of a widget has been to inject gas, even if various improvements or simplifications of the design have been proposed over time.
One such improvement or modification is described by GB2407806 which utilises a chamber formed from two snap-fit upper and lower mouldings. This design includes two duck billed valves and suggests the provision of a second liquid, other than the main beverage, in the chamber.
Problems arise during production of such a device because oxygen can remain or leak into the chamber that causes spoilage. Also, the device requires the use of specialised equipment for filling that leads to increased cost.
DISCLOSURE OF THE INVENTION
In one broad aspect the present invention provides an insert for disposal in a beverage container including: a chamber for containing a volume of fluid; an inlet means to permit gas to enter the chamber; and an outlet means to permit fluid to exit the chamber.
In one form the inlet and outlet means are one-way valves into and out of the chamber respectively. Preferably these valves include a valve closure surface biased against the intended direction of fluid flow.
Preferably such a valve works on the same principle as a spring-loaded valve, as is commonly known, but incorporating a spring bias (i.e. resilience) within its own structure rather than being a separate component. This can be achieved by moulding the valve stem in a Thermo Plastic Elastomer (TPE).
Use of this valve gives excellent consistent performance over a duck-billed valve such as in the prior art. Additionally, by controlling the formulation of the TPE compound and/or the stem dimensions the valve can be adjusted for different applications with different pressures.
In another form the inlet means is a gas-permeable material at or forming a wall of the chamber that permits ingress of gas to the chamber when there is a higher pressure outside the chamber.
The insert of the invention is intended to be filled with a fluid, other than the main beverage in the container, in an oxygen free environment at which point the insert is sealed. In one form, when the inlet means is a one-way valve, the valve may form part of a cap that is used to close the chamber. When the inlet means is to be a gas-permeable material, a cap closure may either be permeable itself, or the walls of the chamber are permeable, or both.
A second broad aspect of the invention relates to a method of filling an insert according to the first aspect, and disposing same in a beverage container. The method includes: flushing oxygen from the insert chamber in an oxygen-free environment, filling a volume of liquid into the chamber, leaving a suitable headspace, sealing the chamber, disposing the insert inside a beverage container, temporarily sealing a shroud over the container opening and pressurising a headspace of the container, sealing a closure on the container.
This process is most suitable for applying the insert to a glass bottle with a narrow neck.
After the container is sealed, an over pressure in the headspace causes gas to pass through the inlet means into the chamber until the chamber and headspace are at an equal pressure. Upon opening the container the headspace outside the chamber drops to atmospheric pressure. The sudden higher pressure in the chamber acts on the liquid, forcing it out of the outlet means.
Preferably the one-way aspect of the outlet (e.g. biasing means on a valve closure) prevents any back-flow of liquid into the chamber, such that it remains empty after the liquid has been discharged. This avoids wastage.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 illustrates a general exploded view of an insert according to the invention,
FIG. 2 illustrates a side elevation exploded view of the insert,
FIG. 3 illustrates a section view of the insert of FIG. 2,
FIG. 4 illustrates a close up view of circled areas B and C of FIG. 3,
FIG. 5 illustrates a close up section view of an alternative form of the insert of the invention,
FIG. 6 illustrates a general view of an assembled insert,
FIG. 7 illustrates perspective views of a second embodiment according to the inventions,
FIG. 8 illustrates an exploded view of the second embodiment,
FIG. 9 illustrates section, side elevation and exploded views of the second embodiment
FIG. 10 illustrates operational views of the invention,
FIG. 11 illustrates a ghosted detail view of a further embodiment,
FIG. 12 illustrates alternative valve configurations,
FIG. 13 illustrates comparative cut-away embodiments,
FIG. 14 illustrates comparative embodiments of the valve cap components, and
FIG. 15 illustrates a further embodiment.
MODE(S) FOR CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION
The general components of an insert according to the invention are shown in FIG. 1. The insert 10 is comprised of a cylindrical housing 11, forming a chamber 12 (FIG. 3) therein, an inlet valve assembly 13, and an outlet valve assembly 14. To prevent or inhibit removal from a bottle opening a pair of wings 15 extend outward from a wall of the housing 11.
The structures of respective inlet valve 13 and outlet valve 14 are quite similar as can be seen in the detailed views of FIG. 4. Each includes a valve closure 16 in the form of an annular skirt 17 extending from a guide element 18. When the valve is closed skirt 17 abuts against a circular edge of receiving part 19. Closure 16 is biased into the contact seal position by virtue of the material of tubular part 20. In a preferred form skirt 17 and tube 20 are formed from TPE plastic such that pressure in the direction of arrow A compresses tube 20 to move skirt 17 away from its abutment with receiving part 19. This opens fluid flow down channels 21 formed in the wall of guide element 18 (see FIG. 1).
The valves 13 and 14 work on the same principle as a spring-loaded valve, as is commonly known, but incorporating a spring bias (i.e. resilience) within its own structure rather than being a separate component. This is achieved by selection of TPE or plastics with equivalent properties for the valve stem (tubular part 20).
By controlling the formulation of the TPE compound and/or the stem dimensions the valve can be adjusted for different applications with different pressures.
The respective valve components are held in place by a lower cap 22 with a central protrusion 23 to locate tube 20. In the case of the inlet valve 13 lower cap 22 co-operates with an upper cap housing 22a to form an inlet cap unit with valve 16 therewithin. Housing 22a includes side slots 24 downstream of guide 18 that allow fluid entering at inlet holes 25, down channels 21, passing skirt 17 (when not abutting edge 19) to exit into chamber 12.
It can be noted that the inlet hole 25 in FIGS. 3 and 4 is formed in an upper portion of a side wall of cap 22a, whereas in FIGS. 1 and 6 the inlet 25 is at an uppermost distal end of the cap 22a. They achieve the same function.
The receiving part 19 of outlet valve 14 is moulded into a lower portion of main housing 11. Lower cap 22 locates tube 20 and covers the open lower end of chamber 12. Outlet holes 26 permit fluid to exit chamber 12 when internal pressure compresses tube 20 to move skirt 17 away from its abutment with receiving part 19 in the direction of arrow A.
A second version of outlet valve 14 is shown by FIG. 5 wherein a spring member 27 replaces tube 20, biasing closure 16 against receiving part 19. The valve otherwise operates in the same way.
It is intended that all components will be moulded from suitable plastics and ultrasonically welded together where appropriate. In practice the inlet cap unit 22a will be placed over the opening and ultrasonically sealed in place only after the chamber 12 is filled with a liquid. The filling procedure is described below.
With outlet valve 14 previously sealed in place over the lower end of chamber 12, it is flushed with an inert gas to remove all traces of oxygen. Chamber 12 is then filled with a liquid, preferably to approximately half full, but in practice it may be any amount that still allows the invention to function. The inlet cap assembly 22a is placed over the upper end of chamber 12 to seal the insert 10 under atmospheric pressure and in a zero oxygen environment.
Insert 10 can be stockpiled for later insertion into a beverage container.
It is intended that the insert be applied with existing production equipment. In the case of a glass bottle, the insert (or "widget") is an elongate housing of the type illustrated. In the known production method the widget is held in a shroud placed over the bottle opening. The shroud seals with the bottle neck and oxygen is flushed from the headspace. In the existing equipment a widget is suspended above the surface of the beverage, although this is not strictly necessary for the present invention.
The shroud and headspace is pressurised (in some cases this involves a dose of liquid nitrogen) and the insert is moved down further into the bottle while a crown closure is placed onto and sealed on the bottle mouth.
Either during or after the insertion process the inlet valve 13 has been, subjected to an over pressure that causes the valve to open and permit gas to flow into the chamber 12 until it is equalised with the headspace. Valve 13 then closes due to resilient bias. Valve 14 has remained closed throughout because pressure (bias) in the direction of arrow D is always greater than (or finally in equilibrium with) chamber 12.
The beverage product is ready for distribution to consumers. Upon opening the crown closure of the bottle the sudden change to atmospheric pressure in the headspace causes valve 14 to open, jetting liquid from chamber 12 into the beverage. It is intended that substantially all liquid will be expelled, possibly chased by a small volume of the gas also within chamber 12.
The type of the liquid within chamber 12 can be chosen from many alternatives. Most likely it will be a "mixer" or other flavour enhancer. In glass bottles there is the opportunity for visual effects as a jet of coloured liquid mixes with a clear beverage contained in the bottle.
The insert may have application in other fields of the food industry or even pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals etc. The original purpose of the invention is injecting a secondary fluid into a main container automatically upon opening of that main container.
An alternative form of the invention is to replace at least the inlet valve cap with a material that allows slow permeation of gas when a pressure differential exists between the chamber and surrounding environment. Accordingly, the insert may be constructed of or include a wall portion made from such a gas-permeable material. The inlet means becomes the gas-permeable nature of the material.
After the filling process, when the headspace is pressurised, the chamber 12 slowly reaches an equilibrium with the surrounding headspace via the permeable wall. This may take a few hours or even days depending on the material, but by the time it is delivered to the consumer, there has been ample opportunity for the chamber to be pressurised.
As in the first embodiment, sudden depressurisation of the headspace causes the outlet valve 14 to open and liquid to jet out of the chamber. The reaction is too fast for gas to bleed through the permeable wall and therefore achieves the same result.
In all forms of the invention the outlet valve 14 serves a function to seal after discharge and prevent liquid from being sucked back into chamber 12. It also remains closed during the substantive life of the insert to avoid the secondary liquid draining out.
It can be noted that the form of the insert featuring a gas-permeable material as inlet means has application as a widget performing the traditional function of gas-only injection. In other words the chamber 12 need not be filled with liquid for this application, it is flushed and sealed empty and begins to pressurise when introduced to the headspace. When the container is eventually opened the insert releases a jet of gas into the beverage.
FIG. 7 shows an alternative embodiment of the invention which is intended to attach to a screw lid or crown closure of a beverage bottle. The flat face of a catch 28 would be ultrasonically welded to the underside of a conventional lid to suspend insert 29, as opposed to the floating nature of the first embodiment.
The body of the insert 29 is connected to catch 28 by an annular flange 30 around upper valve housing 31. Catch 28 itself has mating clip pieces 32 to capture flange 30.
In most respects the operation of upper and lower (inlet and outlet) valves 13 and 14 is the same, hence the same reference numerals are used.
The illustrated chamber 12 of this second embodiment is intended to have a capacity of about 6 mL (2 mL liquid flavour, 4 mL gas volume). However, capacity may vary to up to 10 mL for the liquid volume.
FIG. 10 illustrates operational views of the invention wherein arrow A indicates filling insert 29 with a fluid by pressing down valve 16. When the required volume is filled inert 29 is clicked into catch 28 welded to a lid (not shown).
Arrows E represent gas (via over pressure) entering chamber 12 through valve 16. Once the inside pressure is equal to the outside pressure (which may now be the sealed headspace of a bottle) the valve 16 closes. Flavour and gas is prevented from escaping prior to initiation.
FIG. 11 shows the components in ghost detail. Particularly, the four outlet holes of each valve cap 22 are visible.
FIG. 12 shows alternative forms of valve 16 which may be cruciform 16a or block 16b shaped. Regardless, each has a skirt 17 and a tubular part 20. Valve 16c is formed entirely of a TPE material whereas the others are a composite design.
For the avoidance of doubt, skirt 17 may have other forms that perform an abutment closure role in the valve that are not strictly ring-shaped (annular) as illustrated.
FIG. 13 illustrates comparative embodiments of the main body where FIG. 13a shows a first form with an upstanding internal wall 33 as is visible in FIG. 9 that surrounds the valve 16. FIG. 13b has no internal wall so as to accelerate ejection of the fluid from the insert upon activation.
Likewise the valve cap 22 of FIG. 14b includes additional lateral vents 34 that increase flavour flow because there are more exit points. Lateral vents 34 are also visible in FIG. 15 that enables improved dispersion properties and a non-drip function.
Both forms of the invention allow practical solutions for jetting a secondary liquid into a beverage product, preferably using existing manufacturing equipment for filling etc.
Patent applications by Neal Harvey, York GB
Patent applications by DIAGEO GREAT BRITAIN LIMITED
Patent applications in class Gas medium
Patent applications in all subclasses Gas medium