For most of us, Tupperware has been a staple in our kitchens for years—a product we associate with storing leftovers, meal prep, and even occasionally hoarding in our cabinets. But Tupperware’s impact extends far beyond our domestic lives. It has significant cultural and design implications that are worth exploring.
Earl Tupper’s choice of using polyethylene pellets from Dupont in 1938 led to a revolution in food storage. The “burping seal” made these containers airtight, changing the way households around the world stored food. Tupperware popularized plastic as a versatile, durable, and elegant material for household items. In the early years, the design focused on utility and freshness, a focus that gradually expanded to include aesthetics, with colourful and stylish containers entering the market.
More Than Just Containers
Tupperware successfully ventured into various designs, including serving trays, water bottles, and specialized containers like cake savers and deviled egg keepers. In doing so, Tupperware didn’t just create containers; it defined a lifestyle of organized, efficient homemaking that was both utilitarian and visually pleasing.
Social Gathering with a Sales Agenda
The Tupperware party wasn’t just a means of selling plastic boxes; it was a social revolution. Orchestrated largely by Brownie Wise, these events transformed the marketing landscape. Direct sales allowed women to earn an income while adhering to the societal norms that placed them firmly in domestic settings.
However, it’s important to note that Tupperware’s direct sales model has faced criticism for its multi-level marketing structure. Statistics have shown that a vast majority of its distributors remain at the lowest level, and the direct marketing approach has also faced customer dissatisfaction in countries like the UK and Ireland.
Tupperware’s sales model has elicited mixed reactions from feminists. On one hand, the Tupperware party system offered women a way to earn their own money and wield economic influence. On the other, the very nature of these parties reinforced traditional gender roles, keeping women entrenched in the domestic sphere.
From the U.S. to Indonesia, Tupperware’s impact has been global. While the traditional party model has declined in some Western markets, the brand has successfully adapted to various sales models in different countries, such as franchised “entrepreneurial shopfronts” in China.
Recent years have seen the company in financial turmoil, from the stock prices plummeting to the brand exiting several international markets. The future remains uncertain, with strategies under exploration to ensure its survival.
Navigating Through Modern Aesthetics and Sustainability
Tupperware will need to address design concerns that align with modern aesthetics and sustainability, especially given the growing wariness about plastic’s environmental impact. This presents an opportunity for Tupperware to innovate and potentially reinvent itself for a new generation.
Tupperware is not just a brand of plastic containers; it is an emblematic design story, a cultural phenomenon, and a case study in the complexities of modern marketing and gender politics. As Tupperware navigates its uncertain future, its past serves as a testament to its transformative power, both in our kitchens and in the wider world.
Tupperware. (2023, October 25). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tupperware