ERIE, PA. — Ninety percent of Tupperware products are injection molded, and the kitchen housewares maker has expertise in automation and process efficiency. But David Kusuma said Tupperware’s customers admire the firm’s product design and innovation, not plastics processing.
“What drives consumer value is all the creativity and invention that your team puts together in order to utilize material and technology in a unique way,” said Kusuma, vice president of product development worldwide at Tupperware Brands Corp.
Kusuma described Tupperware’s process of innovation at Penn State Erie’s Innovation and Emerging Plastics Technology Conference, held June 18-19. He also gave a sneak peak at research into “smart” food storage containers for the connected kitchen of the future.
Quality is a given for Tupperware customers. There are cases of families passing down their Tupperware containers from generation to generation.
Tupperware still uses the direct-selling method, using home parties, for most of its sales. Kusuma said that heritage has created a personal connection with consumers. The exception is China, where home parties used to be illegal, Tupperware also uses retail stores run by its sales associates.
The Orlando, Fla.-based company also generates 30 percent of sales from cosmetics, Kusuma said. Tupperware also sells high-end cutlery and cookware, produced by outside manufacturers, he said.
Tupperware has a reputation of high quality, relatively expensive food storage containers, he said. Company officials closely study changes to the global middle class, the main buyers of Tupperware products. For example, Kusuma said, five years ago Europe had the largest percentage of the world’s middle class.
“By 2020, it is projected that more than half of the world middle class will come from the Asia-Pacific region,” Kusuma said.
New products are a key to attracting those consumers. Kusuma said the Tupperware product development team works on 150 to 200 new products every year.
Looking ahead near-term, Kusuma, said Tupperware officials attend the International CES Show each year in Las Vegas. “We’re very interested in the connected home, and especially the connected kitchen. What’s coming in the kitchen that will affect our business in the future?” Kusuma said.
During his presentation at Penn State Erie, Kusuma showed photos of a Tupperware research project with several universities. “How do we make containers self-aware?” he said. Maybe the container could email you at the grocery store?
So Tupperware and the universities developed food storage light sensors ion the bulk storage containers with light sensors in the seals for a visual measurement, strain gauges on the bottom to measure changes in weight and LEDs on the side to show loss of volume.
“Wouldn’t it be interesting if you were at the supermarket and you could actually communicate with your containers back home, and actually ask them, ‘How much sugar do I have?’” Kusuma said.