David Kusuma is highly schooled in engineering and industrial design, and he never tires of learning, as indicated by his multiple university degrees. He is constantly studying, testing and searching but his Holy Grail is materials-based.
The vice president of product development worldwide for Orlando, Fla.-based Tupperware Brands Corp. is forever seeking materials that will further his aim to create durable and stylish housewares such as food-storage containers. That's no small challenge, even for a company with $2.16 billion in 2008 sales that employs more than 2 million individuals to direct-sell its products worldwide.
During the recent Industrial Designers Society of America's international conference in Miami, Kusuma shared some thoughts and goals. High on his wish list:
* A high-heat elastomer that is not only tactile but also food-safe and microwaveable.
* A high-heat polypropylene with greater stiffness than those currently on the market.
* A biopolymer perhaps something nylon-based that will be cost-effective and also deliver the type of long-term durability associated with Tupperware products.
He is eagerly awaiting such fledgling technologies to be commercialized to open the door to new, creative consumer-product designs.
We try to focus on materials that are [Food and Drug Administration]-approved, at least here in the U.S., but if we only do that, we limit ourselves. So we also look at materials that could be FDA-approved, and then try to work with those suppliers to try to get them up to speed, he said.
Meantime, sustainability is attracting a huge amount of attention at Tupperware these days. The company is knee-deep in assessing the environmental impact of all the materials it uses.
Kusuma constantly travels the globe and is well-placed to assess differences in consumer trends between societies.
[Americans like] fast-paced consumerism, disposable products, products that have a short life you use it once or twice, and then basically you discard it. It's not been the strategic model of Tupperware. Tupperware products are sold with a lifetime warranty. Even so, he said, Our sales in the U.S. actually have been picking up lately, because people are starting to be more conscious of being more environmentally friendly. ... But it's been kind of a slow road back.
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