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What is Tupperware®?

By P. Matz
Updated May 17, 2024
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During the early 1940’s a chemist from the DuPont® company named Earl Tupper realized that a new synthetic polymer, polyethylene, a form of plastic, had unlimited commercial potential. Soft and pliable, polyethylene could be molded into a limitless array of shapes, and sizes, and produced in a variety of colors as well.

In 1945 Tupper developed his first polyethylene item, a small tumbler for bathroom use. Department store buyers were quick to embrace the smooth, colorful, and extremely durable new product. It wasn’t long before Earl’s polyethylene tumblers were appearing in stores across the country. Referred to commercially as “Tupper’s Tumblers,” the colorful plastic cups marketed in a variety of pastel shades, were hailed as a marvel of modern science. Not only were the new polyethylene tumblers popular with the public, they were also inexpensive to manufacture, and, thus, highly profitable from a business perspective.

The next items Tupper developed were bowls. Lightweight, and available in a variety of sizes and colors, the new bowls were a big hit, particularly, due to a new feature―lid. By incorporating a lip around the rim of the bowls so that the flexible plastic lids could seal down tightly thereby creating a vacuum effect, the containers were virtually airtight. For homemakers seeking to extend the life of refrigerated food, Tupper’s new sealable bowls were a big hit. With the addition of bowls to the lineup, a complete product line was now assembled. Tupperware® had been born.

Not only an imaginative chemist, Tupper was also a shrewd businessman. Bolstered by the positive press Tupperware® was receiving in the national media, Tupper conceived of an innovative program to market his polyethylene wares. In addition to in-store sales, Tupper devised a plan where homemakers themselves would be hawking his products. Unlike door to door sales, which consumers typically responded negatively to, Tupper realized that the best sales people for his product, were the very housewives who used them. With homemakers already enthusiastic about the Tupperware® line, Tupper devised a plan based on home parties in which the hostess would market and sell Tupperware® products directly to family and friends in return for compensation. Thus, the Tupperware® Party was born, a non-traditional, and innovative approach to marketing products utilized by many companies to this day.

Since Tupperware® parties were not only fun, but a great income making opportunity for housewives, whose employment prospects were limited, the whole idea became a national phenomenon. Due to the overwhelming success of Tupper’s home party program, sale of Tupperware® in stores was suspended. In 1951, Tupperware® Home Parties Inc. was formed, with over nine thousand home dealers nationwide, bringing in sales that by 1954, exceeded $25 million US Dollars. In 1958, having made his fortune, Earl Tupper sold his company to Rexall Drugs and retired.

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