Tupperware could soon become history

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People have come to think of Tupperware as a synonym for food storage, so they use its name to talk about any plastic container.

But the 77-year-old US-based company is seeing cracks in the airtight sealing business that made it famous. Rising debts and falling sales have led to a warning that the company could go bankrupt if it doesn’t get more money.

Even though it has tried to update its products and reach a younger audience in recent years, it has kept its sales from going down.

During the consumer revolution of the 1950s and 1960s, the company became famous for its “Tupperware parties,” and its airtight and watertight containers took the market by storm.

But its main business model, which is to have self-employed salespeople sell mostly from their homes, has been out of style for a while and was stopped in the UK in 2003.

Now, the leaders of a company have admitted that a well-known brand name could disappear from the market if they don’t get more money.

Ms. Shuttleworth said that when Tupperware first came out on the market decades ago, it was a “miracle product.” However, in recent years, there have been a lot of cheaper alternatives on the market.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, when more people were baking and cooking at home, Tupperware’s share price went down sharply but went back up.

But the rise was only short-lived

Since then, sales have gone down again. Ms. Shuttleworth says this is mostly because the company has not been “innovative enough” in the last 10 to 20 years to keep up with its competitors.

A lack of new ideas is a significant change from the beginning.

Earl Tupper, an inventor, started the company in 1946, but Brownie Wise was its public face.

Before Wise came along, Tupper’s product needed to sell. It was a big deal because it used new plastics to keep food fresh and for longer. This was important because many people could not afford refrigerators at the time.

She had already started planning events to sell the containers, where she would meet directly with the mothers and housewives the company wanted to reach. These events were both business and social.

Her creative style and high sales numbers caught the attention of Tupper, who moved her up to the executive level. This was at a time when women were not allowed to sit on boards of directors.

Academics still argue about Wise and Tupperware’s effects, but many say they were important in getting women into the workforce in post-war America and gave women worldwide a way to make money.

Alison Clarke, who taught design history and theory at Vienna’s University of Applied Arts wrote the book Tupperware: The Promise of Plastic in 1950s America, is one of them.

Tupperware resistant to change

On the ground, the company has always been led by women, but that has only sometimes been true in the boardroom. Professor Clarke says that the company has had trouble telling its own positive story or keeping up with the times.

Neil Saunders, who is the managing director of retail at the consulting firm GlobalData, agrees with that view. He said that Tupperware had “failed to change with the times” in how it made and sold its products, pointing out that the way it sold directly to customers through parties “did not connect” with either young or older customers.

He also said that younger people are buying more environmentally friendly ways to keep food fresh, like beeswax paper.

Another retail analyst, Richard Hyman, said that the basic ideas behind Tupperware’s products were “not hard to copy” by other companies. He said the company had “had a good run,” given the competition’s toughness.

The company has tried to make its strategy more diverse by selling in stores like Target and others worldwide and adding more cooking products to its line.

Mr. Saunders also said that if Tupperware had made bigger changes ten years ago, the company might be in a different place now.

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But now, Tupperware’s bosses need more time to think about what could have been. With a quick infusion of cash, the company could stay in business. With such a well-known brand name, Mr. Saunders says it’s possible that a retail giant like Walmart or even Amazon could buy it.

Shares of Tupperware fell sharply on Monday, and even though they bounced back a little on Tuesday, there are growing worries that if the company doesn’t get a lot of new money soon, the lights could go out for good.