Privately held and founded in 1946, Tokyo-based Pentel Co., Ltd., has its U.S. headquarters in Torrance, Calif. Pens, pencils, markers, and erasers are what the firm is all about, and like others who operate in the same space, blister packs have long been the packaging format of choice for a lot of Pentel’s output. But early this year the firm introduced ball-point pens in plastic-free all-paper Paperblister™, and by the end of this year the plan is to have a great many more SKUs in a similarly plastic-free format.
As we’ve seen in so many other breakthroughs where sustainable packaging is concerned, Pentel had an indispensable partner in its journey, and that partner was—and is—Sonoco Alloyd. Also part of the picture was a brand manager tasked with making the plastic-to-paper transition happen, who in this case was Jason Cole, a ten-year veteran of Pentel. He says the process, which began in earnest around the end of 2019, had promising underpinnings right from the start because Pentel was already firmly established as a leader in the sale of refill cartridges for its pens.
“With 85% of the products we sell being refillable, we felt we were already a legitimate thought leader, a sustainability change maker in the category,” says Cole. “At some level it was a matter of ‘reimagining’ our packaging with the same green approach we’d already been taking with refills. And we wanted our packaging to sort of shout it out, you know, to make someone stop and notice that there’s something different here. So that consumers encountering our product in the store would say, ‘Hey, I can buy this one pen and use it for years and years without having it go to the landfill. And not only is the product itself refillable and reusable, it comes in a sustainable package. Now that’s a company that’s really putting its money where its mouth is.’ And that’s why we started down this path with Sonoco.’’