Tupperware boxes are no longer a recipe – Liberation

Seeing its shares plummet on the stock market, the American manufacturer of the famous plastic container is on the verge of bankruptcy. Blame it on an outdated business model and image.

This is an everyday object that shares a common point with other symbols of the consumer society such as the shopping cart, the fridge or the kleenex. By antonomasia, a rhetorical figure which consists of replacing a common noun with a more significant proper noun (and vice versa), a tupperware, which is initially the American brand that gives its name to a whole bunch of plastic kitchen utensils , most often designates any airtight polyethylene food storage box such as is found in spades on the shelves of hypermarkets. With the particularity that the tupperwares, or more simply the “tups”, were sold directly and essentially during evenings or meetings at home by representatives of the company.

But this time, not so far away, is over, the object no longer being successful and the box being on the verge of bankruptcy. The American media report that the company, founded in 1946 by chemical engineer Earl Tupper, saw its shares plummet by nearly 50% on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday, April 10, suggesting the manufacturer’s bankruptcy. . The company, although present in 70 countries, is experiencing great financial difficulties: it is very indebted – around 700 million dollars -, would be short of liquidity while its turnover has almost been halved in ten years. Its sales have been steadily declining, especially since the pandemic, in its main North American and Asian markets (Indonesia, India and China).

Door-to-door selling has had its day

Aftermath: Current Tupperware CEO Miguel Fernandez has since made optimistic statements that his company, now based in Orlando, Florida, will take “immediate measures […] to straighten [sa] financial situation”. Some avenues considered: the liquidation of part of its real estate assets, cuts in its workforce (10,000 employees worldwide) or the continued closure of production sites, like the Joué- lès-Tours (Indre-et-Loire), the only French site closed, in 2017. An inexorable bankruptcy? Let’s say that the commercial model, which made the heyday of the container and allowed it to gain in popularity, namely direct home sales, has had its day with the advent of e-commerce over the past twenty years. However, in-store sales have not succeeded either for the manufacturer of plastic boxes, which has attempted several incursions there since the 1950s, in the face of cheap competition (Action, Ikea) and the time has now come for the placement of products and influence to reach young consumers.

In this regard, plastic containers, which have attempted their transformation by becoming foldable, thanks to a more refined design or more durable materials, enjoy a somewhat outdated image compared to other types of containers deemed more ecological, glass or stainless steel, despite their advantage of being reusable. “This is a product with a brilliant design, made magical by the way it is sold but in a digital world this model no longer works”, summed up with the bbc design historian Alison Clarke. The author of the monograph Tupperware: The promise of plastic in 1950s America also raises that the brand will go down in history for having offered women in American suburbs, isolated and far from the labor market, a way to find themselves or even work, but critics say, while confining them to the domestic sphere. Unless a miracle.

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