Tupperware Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Tupperware became an American icon by pioneering the party-plan, direct-sales system. Tupperware has been sold chiefly by women (a majority of whom have no professional sales qualifications), who demonstrate the products to gatherings of friends in their homes. Although Tupperware products are not sold through stores, annual sales volumes exceeded $1 billion by the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Tupperware began when Earl Silas Tupper, Earl SilasTupper, an amateur inventor and designer, invented a new plastic material from a refined version of polyethylene. Throughout the 1930’s, Tupper had striven to become rich by improving women’s lives. The plastic designs that he created would allow him to achieve his goal by producing labor-saving, flexible, lightweight containers that prevented spills, blocked odors, and stopped spoilage. Despite acclaim from home magazines, however, initial sales of Tupperware remained low. American women had no idea how to use Tupper’s products.Tupperware

At a home party in the 1950’s, company dealer Brownie Wise throws a piece of Tupperware into the air to demonstrate its strength.

(Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Behring Center)

Brownie Wise, BrownieWise, a single mother and Tupperware dealer, began holding Tupperware parties in private homes to demonstrate the products to women in their own neighborhoods. This approach proved to be a great success, and in 1951, Tupper withdrew Tupperware from all retail outlets to focus exclusively on Marketing;direct salesdirect sales. Wise became the face of Tupperware as vice president of Tupperware home parties. By the mid-1950’s, the Tupperware party had become symbolic of suburban postwar America. Tupper focused on design, while Wise focused on sales to the nation’s huge pool of stay-at-home mothers. Tupper terminated Wise in 1958, but her sales strategies cemented the success of the company.

Since the mid-1990’s, about 85 percent of Tupperware sales have been generated outside of the United States. By 2000, a Tupperware party took place somewhere in the world every 2.5 seconds, and an estimated 90 percent of American homes owned at least one piece of Tupperware.

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