Tupperware tension – could it soon be a thing of the past?


Some of our biggest marital arguments involved Tupperware. Or rather, my failure to return a container that had been placed in my care. And, whereas I never truly understood the magnitude of my offence, I always had a notion that this was about something other than the piece of plastic.

There’s a real possibility that the next generation will be forced to live in a world devoid of Tupperware. That our children and their children won’t know the joy of the closing sound of a perfectly matching lid, nor the frustration of a missing one. Our grandchildren won’t
know what it means to be trusted with their container and the horror of losing it. Much like the white rhino, Tupperware is on the
verge of extinction. This should be a big story, but one could easily have missed it. Especially if we consider other events that have dominated the news. In that context, it could be contended that the Tupperware demise is of no consequence. I would argue that the very opposite is true. The death of Tupperware might well signal the death of old-world family values. Consider the history of the brand. Tupperware was born into a post-world-war world. The company is named after Earl Tupper, a chemist in the 1940s, who created lightweight, non-breakable plastic containers inspired by the seal-tight design of paint cans. The purpose was to help families save money on costly food waste. They never sold well in stores because consumers were unsure how to use them. That conundrum led to the idea of demonstrating the product, which then evolved into the famous Tupperware house parties.

The practice dove-tailed brilliantly with the rise of suburbia: women had bigger homes, bigger kitchens, more money to spend, more children to feed and more responsibilities. For the generations that followed, Tupperware became a measure of love and responsibility. Trusted children were rewarded with the honour of taking Tupperware to school, while those lower in the pecking order were given then cheaper alternatives. Mothers in many cases, given the choice, would rather that the container returned home – not the kid. Unlike the rhino, Tupperware is a symbol of the home. It contains and preserves food, which is the embodiment of nurture and sustenance. It allowed children to carry a slice of home with them and parents to be reminded why they were working. There are many reasons why the company might fail. The inability to adapt and appeal to a new generation, the sales process, as well as the product pricing might all be factors. One thing is certain, though. I might be saddened by the extinction of any species, but I will definitely miss the missing Tupperware lids, the responsibility they entail and even the arguments that my carelessness might have caused.

Text | Howard Feldman Photography | Kues Follow Howard Feldman on Twitter: @HowardFeldman.

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