There are a handful of companies whose brands become synonymous with the product category they sell. Among them are giants such as Xerox, Kleenex, Thermos and Tupperware.

Today, 77 years after that last company’s founding, families often refer to the spot in the kitchen where they store plastic food containers as “the Tupperware drawer” – even though it is possible that there’s nothing there actually bearing the company’s name. Such a scenario is partly the reason behind its recent announcement that it was on the brink of closure, scrambling to see if it could stay afloat by finding new investors, selling off real estate or laying off workers.

“The Company has concluded there is substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern,” it said in a statement on Friday. Tupperware failed to file an end-of-year statement to the Securities and Exchange Commission, and although it has an extra six months to submit it to avoid having its stock delisted, the Orlando-based company said there was “no assurance” it would meet the extended deadline.

Tupperware Troubles

Tupperware Brands, which experienced a resurgence during the pandemic, is now pursuing investors to keep it afloat and is in danger of being delisted by the New York Stock Exchange. Garrett Cheen/Associated Press, file

Analysts say the very thing that helped make Tupperware such an iconic brand also might have been part of its downfall: The Tupperware party. Those gatherings, where suburban women demonstrated and sold their neighbors resealable bowls and canisters, were part social occasions and part business revolution. Brownie Wise, a single mother in the Detroit suburbs, is credited with the concept soon after Tupperware launched in 1946, beginning as an independent buyer and seller who recruited other women to host events at their homes.

Tupperware founder and inventor Earl Silas Tupper took notice of her success and pulled Tupperware off store shelves, as journalist Bob Kealing recounted in his 2016 book “Life of the Party.” Tupper eventually promoted Wise to general sales manager and adopted her strategy of home-based sales, which offered homemakers a rare chance to generate income of their own.

But in recent years, Tupperware suffered under that model. Last year, it finally began offering its products directly to consumers on Target shelves in a bid to gain visibility. “Younger customers less familiar with direct sales will now find our brand in retail,” CEO Miguel Fernandez explained at the time, according to news reports. “Customers who already love Tupperware parties – whether in-person or online – will now also be able to pick up their favorite essential food storage options at a store nearby.” Tupperware, whose canape-serving acolytes touted it as indestructible, was feeling heat from competitors including Rubbermaid, Glad, Oxo and Ziploc.


Although not all consumers might have come face-to-face with the products, they’ve almost certainly heard of the brand, which has come to occupy an enviable spot in both the lexicon – where it is a stand-in for the entire category of plastic food storage containers – and in pop culture. Edith Bunker fretted about hosting a Tupperware party in a 1974 episode of “All in the Family.” And goofball Kramer on “Seinfeld” once gave a homeless man leftovers but angered him when he returned, looking to get his plastic container back. “With Tupperware, you just assume!” Kramer ranted.

References to the brand pop up in more contemporary depictions of mid-century domestic life: There’s a plotline in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” where the cash-strapped title character hawks Tupperware at an Easter-egg-hued party (the company partnered with the show on a revival of its classic “Wonderlier” bowl). And the American Horror Story franchise set a 2014 episode at a Tupperware party that ends up with attendees dead in a bloody swimming pool (an Avon lady also gets beheaded in the show).

Tupperware bowls and advertisements are part of the National Museum of American History’s collection.

But even a household name doesn’t guarantee success. Tupperware had reported declining sales last year, and it now faces a lawsuit by investors who said the company misled them by failing to disclose “serious issues with internal controls” in false statements.

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