Meet Luke and Christian of Outdoor Provisions. In 2019 these two 'fresh-air heads' came together after a chance meeting out on the open-road, to create an energy bar with a difference. Outdoor Provisions are energy bars made for a community of adventurers who prefer to enjoy the journey, then to race to the top. Everything they do is low impact, from the way they explore the world around them, to the way they produce their products. We took some time this week to find out more about this Maverick pair.
Words & Photography by Outdoor Provisions | @outdoorprovisions
When was Outdoor Provisions born and can you introduce us to your team?
Christian: Outdoor Provisions (OP) is Luke and I. We are a couple of fresh-air-heads that love bikepacking and most things on two wheels, a bit of wild swimming, through hiking and trail running. We met by chance at some traffic lights as we both rode back into Manchester from rides in the Peak about 5 years ago. Last year we left our jobs and set up a company together.
Luke: Yep, it was fate... We’ve since spent many long days bikepacking, kipping in bothies and running around the Peak to trust each other enough with a big step in our lives. OP was an enthusiastic idea in September 2018, started to gather momentum in early 2019 and we launched in September of that year.
Where did the idea come from?
Christian: I’ve worked in the food industry for over 15 years and I came to realise I don’t really have the mentality for the corporate ladder or companies where all the decisions are made by accountants. I believed there was a niche within the outdoor snacks sector for a company with an ethos aimed at shifting the needle towards a lower impact approach. The whole sector needs a wake up call.
Luke: ‘Eating’ is a bit part of the outdoor pursuits experience and one we’d shared a lot; high altitude gnocchi on the Torino Nice Rally, burnt to the pan porridge in Scotland, our fair share of Tunnock’s caramel wafers and plenty of naf ‘energy bars’. When C floated the idea for OP and had a recipe to back it up, I backed him immediately. My background is in design and we aligned quickly on how OP could stand out in an admittedly crowded market.
Talk us through your products and what makes them unique?
Christian: We make all natural energy bars in plastic-free packaging with flavors inspired by classic foods from within UK national parks. They are plant-based, palm oil free and deliver a balanced release of energy. I feel that our company ethos sets us apart from a lot of companies in the outdoor nutrition sector. We have the signposts to keep us on the right path.
- For use outdoors - Our offerings will be developed specifically for use outside and must be fit for that environment.
- Provision with a conscience - We will always be as low impact as possible, considered and progressive - from products, to packaging, to process.
- Enable & Protect - We will use profits to give back to organisations and initiatives that protect and enable the outdoors.
We are a member of 1% For the Planet and actually just last week announced our first partnership with the RSPB, donating all profits from the sales of our Raptor pin badge to raise awareness of and work towards ending raptor persecution. If you’re a bird of prey lover too, there’s more on that here.
Luke: Yep, what C said really. Energy bars that don’t taste like cardboard, turn to sawdust or concrete in your mouth or mess your stomach up. No super sweet Double Choc Chip Extra Caramel type flavours. A genuine connection to the outdoors. Dependable, portable and tasty is how we describe them. You can rely on an OP bar to sit in your rucksack and be there when you need it, to compliment your cheese butty or trusty banana - you won’t catch us saying ‘eat one of these every 20 mins...’
You use compostable wrappers and 100% recyclable packaging for all of your products. Why was this important to you?
Christian: Most snack bars are produced in non-recyclable packaging. We read recently about one UK producer that makes 2 million bars a week. With a wrapper weight of 3g, that’s 6 tonnes of packaging to landfill every week. Plastic free wrapping technology exists now and we want to be on the front foot when the big companies finally take notice and the technology becomes cheaper and more readily available.
Unless they create proprietary packaging with exclusivity, but then that would suggest they don't really care either. The packaging comprises an ultra-thin layer of aluminium that breaks down with no impact on the soil, with the bulk of the wrapper made from renewable wood pulp. It should go on a well-maintained compost heap or in your household green/food waste bin. There is definitely an issue with our recycling infrastructure matching up to compostable packaging but we have to start somewhere, don't we.
Luke: It was a no brainer really. I don’t think we’d have started at all without that in place. It seems mad that it’s even a selling point and not an industry standard. We want to help address the often one-sided relationship between many of us that identify as outdoorsy and the single-use convenience that can comes with it by giving people a better option for a product they use a lot. As well as packaging, there are other ways to run a start-up with as low impact an impact as possible. Working from home, travelling by bike, using recycled boxes for high volume dispatch, donating excess samples to Fairshare and designing our SRP to mail without any extra packaging.
Talk to us about your community of ‘fresh-air heads’ and what that movement means to you?
Christian: With lockdown in place, our fresh-air-head meets are on hold. Once it lifts though, we’ll be putting on rides, swims and walks, led by our local fresh-air-heads, that are inclusive and can mobilise people. Luke put it best on our about page; ‘Not the fastest or leanest or slaves to only one pursuit, but compelled to be out of doors, amongst it, with dirt under our fingernails and a horizon in sight. Seeking to tip the work-life balance in favour of life, in favour of sport, sweat and heightened heart rates.’
Luke: I don’t like being labelled as many things, but I quite like being a fresh-air-head. There’s plenty of us that can associate with being a bit addicted to fresh air. I get grumpy and down when life gets in the way and I don’t get my hit. The fresh-air-head is distinguishable by their approach to being outside and that lifestyle.
Now people have taken to it and we’re opening a fresh-air-head certification division of OP...
Where did your connection to the outdoors and fresh air begin and how do you maintain this living and working in an urban environment?
Luke: I’m not sure you initially realise your connection (or dependency?!) on fresh air until you’re already hooked. Mine has certainly grown stronger and stronger over the last 30 years and has culminated in how we come across as Outdoor Provisions.
Right now, promoting our tagline of ‘Let’s Take This Outside’ hasn’t felt right. In fact we changed temporarily to Indoor Provisions and Let’s Keep This Inside, for a bit! We rate our bars for consumption anytime but they don’t taste the same when you’re sat watching tele. Most of the fresh-air-heads have understood the importance of social distancing though and observed it brilliantly, as hard as it may have been, given the weather too. We’re proud of them!
You can still live in a city and get a fresh air hit, though admittedly it’s a bit harder, especially right now when one persons ‘local’ might seem a lot more appealing than another’s. Urban living during lockdown has actually been pretty good - so much quieter, way less traffic. We're enjoying hearing how people are adapting to exploring on a hyper-local scale - finding bits of their own backyards that they'd previously missed, or maybe hadn't looked for. There's always an allure to afar, but you can't appreciate those places completely without a knowledge of what's right under your nose. We'll always champion UK exploration and adventure.
What are your hopes for the future of Outdoor Provisions?
Christian: We have actually been doing a lot more planning lately and looking closely at what we want to achieve. When the c-word issue kicked off our business to business sales died overnight, which is a shame because we had some real green shoots of spring and were excited to bring our product to more people via some lovely businesses. We have had some big events canceled as well that we were looking forward to being at / taking part in.
We should just about be able to survive this period but it certainly knocked the wind out of our sails. It’s going to be interesting when the mist lifts! Long term we have a number of different product ideas, hopefully 1 or 2 launching this year as we iron out some issues so the packaging sits inline with our philosophy. Our plan is in a few years time you can come to outdoorprovisions.co.uk and pick up everything you need to fuel your activities.
Luke: We have a subscription service that we’d like to build for the ‘oh f**k the snack drawer is empty again’ types. That’s how we can offer the best price and added perks on top too. Maybe some technical apparel or hardware if it fits our ethos - we’re called Outdoor Provisions and not XYZ Bars to leave this option open.
What is Maverickness to you?
Christian: To me this is people that look at things differently, have conviction in their vision and an authenticity. They challenge the ‘but it has always been done this way mentality’. It doesn't have to be an outrageously big idea as well, you can nudge something on and be a maverick, approach something different, challenge the status quo. It often has negative connotations but I like to think of them as a force for good, pushing up from the bottom.
Luke: I reckon there is a definite cross over with fresh-air-heads and mavericks. Probably most genuine mavericks aren’t the ones that are claiming to be, they’re too busy doing their own thing. Maverickness is linked to exploration and while there aren’t many modern day Millican Daltons there are plenty of people finding new ways to enjoy the outdoors.