Tupperware celebrates its 50th birthday in the Netherlands this year. The home-sales party concept has evolved into the 'cooking studio' and men no longer flee when the ‘Tupperware Lady’ rings the bell.
They used to be found in almost every Dutch kitchen: the see-through plastic containers with coloured lids that are used to store food. Mother bought them at a Tupperware party at a neighbours’ or friends’ house. After half a century of parties, Tupperware is still going strong.
The concept hasn't changed much: a woman invites her friends and neighbours round for a party, explains the handy, airtight containers and then tries to sell them. According to Klaasjan Krook, director of Tupperware Netherlands, the accent is now on the high quality, 'smart' cookware that enables people to make healthy meals very rapidly.
Even though most of the parties are hosted by women, a Tupperware party isn't just for ladies anymore. "Men don't flee to the bar on the corner when their wives are hosting a cooking studio," says Krook. He says it's probably due to the fact that many of the popular TV cooks are men.
The economic crisis has increased Tupperware's popularity: "People are more aware of the cost of food and more inclined to save the leftovers," says Krook. Tupperware parties are also a very clever way of selling. He continues: "Our products are extremely high quality and they do cost a bit more. However, unemployment among women has increased and they are looking for a way to earn money. This has led to a jump in both sales and sellers."
The home-sales concept has been a success for numerous other companies, including the cosmetics giant Avon and Ha-Ra, which produces environmentally-friendly cleaning products. The Tupperware method is not only crisis-resistant; it also contributes to the emancipation of women in poorer countries.
Many women in developing countries set up small businesses selling one of the Tupperware brands - or one of its rivals; the sellers can create a business with a relatively small investment, gain access to a marketing network and take advantage of courses offered by the company.
Microcredit institutions are prepared to lend money to women selling Tupperware and its sister brands due to the self-development opportunities. However, this has also led to a debate within the company: should we really be encouraging poor women in South Africa, Indonesia or Peru to purchase relatively expensive food storage containers or cosmetics?
Amway, which also started in the US, has seen strong growth in China and Indonesia in recent years. There are thousands of ABOs or Amway Business Owners, selling nutritional supplements, cosmetics and cleaning products to their own network of family, friends and acquaintances. It gives them a decent income and has generated billions for Amway. China is now the company’s largest market.