Tupperware: Confronting Changing
As refrigerators replaced iceboxes as the primary method of cold-food storage in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s, consumers encountered a new problem—refrigeration caused food to wilt and lose its flavor. Although paper packaging and wrapping could help deal with this problem, paper could leak or tear. In the 1940s, a Massachusetts inventor named Earl Tupper began making lightweight, unbreakable plastic bowls with airtight lids to solve this problem.
Although the product was unique, housewives did not immediately adopt this innovation. They were wary of plastic (still considered a mysterious substance) and saw Tupperware as an expensive, nontraditional solution to food storage problems. Finally, Tupperware distributors thought up the device of home parties to sell the product. A group of women gathered in the home of a friend for lunch or dessert, conversation and games, and a demonstration by a Tupperware salesperson. The hostess received a gift, and the salesperson made some sales.
Throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, sales of Tupperware (by then a subsidiary of Dart Industries) grew rapidly—fast enough to entice Rubbermaid to enter the market using the same basic sales approach. But by 1980 there was a noticeable decline in married couples with children, there were Fewer children per family, and labor-force participation by women with children was growing rapidly. Although working women have more money to spend, they have less time for parties and are often less concerned about storing leftovers.
Recognizing the significance of this trend, Rubbermaid dropped the home party approach in favor of distribution through grocery stores. Additionally, a number of smaller rivals entered the market, low-quality, low-priced bowls through drugstores and other retail outlets. By 1992, Tupperware's market share had declined from 60 percent to about 40 to 45 percent while Rubbermaid's share...
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