People think of Tupperware as a synonym for food storage, so they use its name to talk about any plastic container.
But the US-based company, which is 77 years old, is seeing cracks in the business that made it famous—sealing things so they don’t leak. The company could go out of business if it doesn’t get more money because its debts are increasing and its sales are decreasing.
Even though it has tried to update its products and reach a younger audience in recent years, it has kept sales from going down.
During the consumer revolution of the 1950s and 1960s, the company became known 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 own homes, has been out of style for a while and was stopped in the UK in 2003.
Now, the leaders of a company have said that if they don’t get more money, a well-known brand name could disappear from the market.
When Tupperware first came out on the market many years ago, Ms. Shuttleworth said it was a “miracle product.” But there have been a lot of cheaper options on the market in recent years.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, when more people baked and cooked at home to avoid getting sick, Tupperware’s stock price dropped sharply but went back up.
But the rise of Tupperware didn’t last long
Sales have gone down again since then. Ms. Shuttleworth says that 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 big change from the beginning is that there are no new ideas.
Earl Tupper, who was an inventor, started the company in 1946, but Brownie Wise was the face of the company to the public.
Before Wise showed up, Tupper’s product had to be sold. It was a big deal because it used new plastics to keep food fresh and last longer. This was important because many people couldn’t afford fridges at the time.
She had already started planning events where she would sell the containers directly to the moms and housewives the company wanted to reach. There was both business and fun at these events.
Tupper noticed her creative style and high sales numbers and moved her up to the executive level. Unfortunately, women were not allowed to be on boards of directors at the time.
Academics still argue about the effects of Wise and Tupperware, but many say they were important in getting women into the workforce in the United States after World War II and gave women all over the world a way to make money.
One of them is Alison Clarke, who wrote the book Tupperware: The Promise of Plastic in 1950s America. She taught design history and theory at Vienna’s University of Applied Arts.
Refusal to change
Women have always run the company on the ground, but this has only sometimes been true in the boardroom. Professor Clarke says that the company needs help telling a good story about itself and staying up to date.
Neil Saunders, who is the managing director of retail at the consulting firm GlobalData, agrees with that point of view. He said that Tupperware had “failed to change with the times” in making and selling its products. He pointed 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 things like beeswax paper to keep food fresh, that are better for the environment.
Another retail analyst, Richard Hyman, said that other companies could easily copy the basic ideas behind Tupperware’s products. But, given how tough the competition was, he said that the company had “done well.”
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 Tupperware might be in a different place now if the company had made bigger changes ten years ago.
But now, the people in charge of Tupperware need more time to think about what might have been. If the company got money quickly, it could stay in business. Mr. Saunders says that since the brand name is so well known, a big store like Walmart or even Amazon could buy it.
Shares of Tupperware fell sharply on Monday, and even though they went up a little on Tuesday, people are getting more worried that the company could go out of business if it doesn’t get a lot of new money soon.