Plastic food storage containers really got their boost post-World War II, when the likes of Earl Tupper started examining new applications for plastics. For Tupper's part, he found a method to convert polyethylene into molded, frosted pastel shades for tumblers and seals that were patentable for containers and their lids.
Tupper had a job at Viscoloid, DuPont Co.'s plastics division in Leominster, Mass. In his free time, Tupper filled notebooks with scientific inquiries, experiments and inventions. The Smithsonian in Washington features some of Earl Tupper's industrial drawings in a traveling exhibit called “Doodles, Drafts, and Designs: Industrial Drawings from the Smithsonian.”
Tupper took this experience and founded a plastics company of his own in 1938. Tupper's original Tupper Plastics Inc. still exists today as Tupperware Brands Inc., based in Orlando, Fla.
Tupperware's original containers were molded from polyethylene, but over the years, the company grew into using much more highly engineered plastics, said Jane Garrard, the company's vice president of investor relations.
“We still have a percentage of the line in polypropylene and polyethylene,” she said, “but now we use a lot more polycarbonate.”
The globalization of the product category is reflected in Tupperware's products. It offers products now like the Kimchi Keeper, Kimono Keeper and Japanese Bento Box. For its European customers, it customizes products for foods like live cheese, as in its CheeseSmart container that allows cheese to breathe.