Parents across the world have grown weary of the games being played by the major manufacturers of our children's feeding gear. The market is experiencing one of history's fastest swings away from a single chemical used in product manufacturing. Manufacturers are reeling in the wake of requests for information regarding the types of plastic used in their products and it's obvious that many of them are unsure how to handle the uproar.
A case in point is Tupperware, who had been very secretive with their materials list until a few weeks ago when ZRecs was able to persuade them to provide complete information (you can find the full list here). Take a look at how difficult manufacturers can make this process:
Over the past weeks we have had extensive email and telephone contact with Tupperware through their Worldwide Director of Quality Management and Research & Development, Jan Stevens, after their PR firm helped us set up a conference call. I had a great conversation with him, and found him to be not only knowledgeable and passionate but frank, sincere, and open to new information and perspectives. Based on the information we received from him, we can now confirm that all Tupperware children's items are BPA-free, and that Tupperware has a major customer relations problem on its hands.
My encounter with Mr. Stevens was the first I have ever had with an industry executive at a polycarbonate-using company in which they admitted some legitimate room for parental concern about BPA.
At the beginning of our conversation Jan spent about ten minutes in the firm, aggressive tone we have heard so frequently in our dealings with entrenched companies. When he had finished outlining Tupperware's position, I pointed out to him that the scientific studies of BPA examine targeted and isolated exposure and that while these levels might not reach those he or Tupperware would consider a concern, many parents are trying to limit the children's total exposure levels, which encompassed a vast array of plastic products their children interact with on a daily basis, and that these studies did not – and possibly could not – address these issues in a laboratory setting. He shocked me by agreeing that this was a “different matter,” that “the research is not yet in” about how total environmental exposure to BPA might affect fetal and child development, and that parents might be legitimately concerned about reducing their children's overall exposure to BPA. He then agreed to send me a complete listing of Tupperware products and the exact materials they were all made of.
ZRecs initially spent upwards of 15 hours in labor intensive research and eventually brought in a PR firm as mediator. Only then were they given complete access to Tupperware's material list. Downright absurd. As Jeremiah so eloquently put it,
It is foolish to treat consumer reporters as we have been treated, it is corporate suicide to treat customers that way, and the trouble with bloggers is that they are both. Any company that exhibits this kind of pattern of behavior needs to recast its relationship with consumers for the twenty-first century, and we can't think of many companies that would be more harmed by a failure to do so than Tupperware – the company's independent sales reps, who helped build and remain the lifeblood of that company, reap what the multinational sows, and rely on the brand's gold-standard status to sell the products that feed their families.
The Soft Landing Team has spoken with thousands of parents about the issue. We know firsthand, without a doubt, that they are taking notes on how each company responds. Hiding behind BPA assurance letters and other rhetoric such as “our ingredient list is proprietary” instantly creates a sense of mistrust among consumers.
We've also seen the other side of the coin. Manufacturers who were among the first to lay it all out like Boon, Evenflo, Nuby and Sassy have seen outrageous growth in past months. It's not always because their products are of the highest quality or design – it's simply because they've been honest and forthcoming with every single annoying little request we've made of them. Period.