It looks like the lid could be snapping shut on Tupperware – the iconic vacuum-sealed plastic container founded in 1946 which inspired famous ‘parties’ and became a favourite of the late Queen. Could disastrous financial figures mean that Tupperware’s fate is now sealed?

What are we talking about here?

Tupperware, a handy – and environmentally friendly – product in which to store food. And it comes with a party, in that Tupperware parties were where you traditionally bought your Tupperware.

The first such shindig was thrown in 1949 by a single mother in Detroit who was so unimpressed by a travelling salesman, she vowed to do a better job herself. Brownie Wise invited her friends over and started a global trend – inviting other women to sell their wares and make a bit of commission on the side.

Brownie became vice president and general manager of Tupperware Home Parties – before being fired (and having her name erased from company history) after 21 of the 1,200 guests she had invited to an island party sued the company for injuries sustained fleeing a torrential thunderstorm.

It sounds a bit like a cult…

There are no reported incidents of exorcisms, so we think we’re OK.

But why just go to the shop to buy ‘burping’ air-tight containers when you can get some cheesy-pineapple-y nibbly bits out of it, crack open some wine and get your friends over.

Oh and make a bit of commission on the side. The first Tupperware party hosted in the UK was in 1961 and sales boomed globally.

The Guinness Book of Records named Tupperware one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century and, by 2015, it was estimated that a Tupperware party was held once every 1.4seconds.

Are you sure about the environmental bit? Tupperware is made out of plastic, isn’t it…

But it’s not single-use plastic. Imagine the amount of cling film cluttering up landfills until the end of time – that stuff never goes away. A Tupperware box can be washed and reused for hundreds of years.

How did it all start?

It was in fact 1946 when Earl Tupper (a real name!) launched his polyethylene plastic storage containers on a public that up until then had been keeping food in old shoeboxes under the bed. Probably.

And don’t tell us… it was an instant smash-hit!

Actually, no. Sales in department stores were sluggish to begin with, basically because Tupperware was super hi-tech to a buying public used to glass jars and those shoeboxes, and customers didn’t understand how to use the lids.

But the Tupperware parties changed all that – they were lauded as the perfect way for women who stayed at home to make some money for themselves.

So, why are we talking about Tupperware now?

It’s never a bad time to talk about Tupperware – especially with their new FridgeSmart set currently on sale – but it does seem as though there’s trouble at t’mill.

The company may have done booming business during the pandemic, when we were all basically 1960s housewives but shares in the company have dropped 95 per cent in the last year, crashing almost 50 per cent in just one day recently – leading to an announcement from the company to its investors that there was ‘substantial doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.’

And without Tupperware, really, why would anyone bother getting out of bed?

Why is it in trouble, then?

Well, apart from the fact that Tupperware is not the only game in town any more (places such as Ikea have alternative food storage solutions) and people have moved on to Anne Summers parties (much more fun, so we’re told), a lot of us are either never buying food that needs keeping in a box for freshness or else we’re using the boxes that our Deliveroo Chinese takeaway came in.

That’s OK for leftovers but you can’t keep everything in a takeaway box…

It’s true that they are no good for store cupboard staples. And even her late Majesty the Queen would have her cereals laid out in pourable Tupperware (she favoured yellow lids, apparently) on the breakfast table at Buckingham Palace.

In fact, sales of Tupperware soared when a TV documentary showing behind the scenes of royal life revealed the Queen’s breakfast table for the first time ever.

Years later, royal chef Darren McGrady revealed that in her later life, Her Majesty liked to eat her fruit straight from a small Tupperware container.

Where did it all go wrong?

According to experts (there are apparently experts in this field), Tupperware failed to appeal to younger buyers, many of whom went for more eco-friendly food storage solutions such as beeswax paper which, like Tupperware, can be reused. And for all its handy stackability, Tupperware has never been exactly pretty.

So, what are children going to take their packed lunches to school in now? Well, Tupperware hasn’t gone yet.

And in any case, we’re sure there would be a healthy black market for the stuff – otherwise we’ll just have to scour antiques shops and keep a close eye on Cash In The Attic in years to come…

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