Is the Tupperware era ending? The 77-year-old U.S. company, known for its trademark plastic food storage containers, warned of "substantial doubt" about its ability to keep operating in light of its poor financial position, according to a recent regulatory filing.
When the market opened on Monday following its April 7 disclosure, shares of the company plunged 50% and lingered at the depressed level in successive days.
On Thursday, however, shares staged a partial rebound, rising about 25%.
The company's roots date to 1946, when chemist Earl Tupper "had a spark of inspiration while creating molds at a plastics factory shortly after the Great Depression," according to Tupperware's website.
"If he could design an airtight seal for plastic storage containers, like those on a paint can, he could help war-weary families save money on costly food waste."
Over time, Tupper's hermetically sealed plastic containers also became associated with "Tupperware Parties," where friends would gather with food and drink as a company representative demonstrated the items.
In December 2021, the Orlando, Florida-based company had about 10,000 employees. According to its most recent annual SEC filings, "Tupperware owns and maintains manufacturing and/or distribution facilities in Brazil, Greece, Indonesia, Korea, Mexico, Portugal, South Africa and the United States, and leases manufacturing and distribution facilities in Belgium, China, Germany, India, Japan, New Zealand, and Venezuela."
But the brand's reach has dwindled, with annual sales falling by half over the last decade to just $1.3 billion in 2022, when it reported a $14 million loss.
"Tupperware is being hit by a number of forces including a sharp decline in the number of sellers, a consumer pullback on home products, and a brand that still does not fully connect with younger consumers," said Neil Saunders of GlobalData.
"The company used to be a hotbed of innovation with problem-solving kitchen gadgets, but it has really lost its edge."
A company initiative to gain distribution through big-box chain Target marked an attempt at change, but "its reach is very limited compared to other brands," Saunders said.
In an April 7 press release, Tupperware said it had enlisted financial advisors "to assist in securing supplemental financing, and is engaging in discussions with potential investors or financing partners."
The company is also evaluating its real estate portfolio and other assets that could be tapped "to preserve or deliver additional liquidity," the filing said.
© Agence France-Presse