Packaging Wellness: The success of Better Than Provisions

"It’s all about doing this one small thing and making it a habit."

In 1998, the band Morcheeba had a hit song called “Part of the Process” with lyrics that cooed:

“It’s all part of the process / We all love looking down / All we want is some success / But the chance is never around.”

Life is just one big process, isn’t it? Growing, learning, experiencing, and, for a lot of us, healing.

It was a healing process that brought about the idea for Better Than Provisions, a Tucson-based, husband-and-wife granola operation. Their process, both personally and professionally, is taking that chance to look down on some success.

April and Earl King of Better Than Provisions (Photo by Mark Whittaker)

April and Earl King met through a mutual friend in Austin, Texas. Earl had been living and working in Austin for a few years but April, hailing from Wisconsin, moved there for personal and health reasons. Suffering from chronic pain brought on by stress, the more temperate weather in central Texas was far more forgiving on April’s muscles and joints. Plus, Austin is just a really cool city as well.

“I got very sick so I turned to holistic healing and got very passionate about it,” said April while we hung out at their commissary on Stone Avenue. “Holistic health is much easier to identify within a city like Austin. It was a process but I started to heal and feel better.”

April King of Better Than Provisions (Photo by Mark Whittaker)

Things got even better when she met her soon-to-be husband. Although, the humidity in Texas brought on a lot of unwanted mold, and her pain, along with allergies, began to swell. Through yet another mutual friend, a suggestion to move to dry and the very holistic Tucson made its way to the Kings. So, they packed up and have been happy Old Pueblo residents ever since.

Once here, the weather and the food of Tucson helped April heal up — especially the food. Being a midwestern girl, it was really difficult for her to find healthy, organic grub that was good for both the gut and the soul. Snacks on the other hand weren’t that easy to locate. Most over-the-counter and “healthy” munchies were either packed with sugar or just didn’t taste very good. Luckily, April and Earl came upon a keto that started to set their future endeavors into motion.

Photo by Mark Whittaker

“It was actually really good and it wasn’t full of garbage ingredients,” said April. “I took that recipe, made a few changes, and started making our own granola.”

Living a healthy lifestyle and living in a city that is praised for its cycling culture, trails, and general “go outside” attitude (at least October through June), the Kings developed a five-nut combination. It contained just a few tasty components for their regular treks over hills, mountains, and on dusty desert paths.

That recipe was so yummy and beneficial that they started sharing it with friends, who in turn began asking about acquiring supplies for themselves. Between the demand in their immediate circle, along with people freaking out when they brought their granola to parties, the two saw something they hadn’t seen before.

Maybe there is something more to this granola than just a healthy delicious bite for them and their pals.

“It was obvious that people wanted something tasty and nutritious that just wasn’t on the market,” said Earl. “We then asked ourselves, ‘what is this thing costing us?’ I then went to the store with a pen and paper and began figuring everything out.”

Photo by Mark Whittaker

Almonds, macadamias, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecans along with pumpkin seeds, coconut flakes, oil, cinnamon, vanilla, and sea salt. It all started to add up, financially and manufacturing-wise, and that’s when April and Earl got to work.

April had a relationship with Heirloom Farmers Markets because she once worked a booth with a friend selling sauerkraut based out of Phoenix. It was yet another contact that moved some products aside so April and Earl could sell their now bagged granola at the corner of her table in late 2018.

It went over far better than expected.

Photo by Mark Whittaker

“Our first name for the granola was called ‘April’s Small Batch Better Than Granola’,” chuckles April. “Yeah, that was a bit long. We then went with just ‘Better Than Granola’ but, after running that by a lawyer, he said that we really couldn’t trademark granola. That’s when ‘Better Than Provisions’ came up.”

The term “provisions” was ideal because it allowed them to make other products if they wanted, which is, well, what they wanted to do. With a name for their brand secured and demand for their product growing, it was then time for the Kings to see if they could take it to another level.

Photo courtesy of Better Than Provisions on Facebook

Photo courtesy of Better Than Provisions on Facebook

The first market to carry Better Than Provisions was Food Conspiracy Co-Op on Fourth Avenue, and through them, they were educated on what it really meant to be in the retail health food business.

“They told us that we needed a barcode, and we were like, ‘what’s a barcode?’,” Earl laughs. “The Co-Op taught us so much about what it means to be on the shelf. That also gave us some thought on who the Better Than Provisions person is.”

With the cinnamon vanilla variety being a hit, April and Earl set to work on more product options. When autumn arrived, they concocted the ever-present pumpkin spice but added apple to include not only more flavor but additional victuals to the vittles. They also wanted a spicy variety as well and emerged with a combination of cayenne, cacao, and goji berry.

Photo courtesy of Better Than Provisions

Photo courtesy of Better Than Provisions on Facebook

“There was only one small batch spicy granola mix out there at the time and it was awful,” said Earl. “April literally nailed the cayenne recipe on the first or second try. It’s still my favorite.”

With three flavor options to choose from, a concept that was growing in popularity, a cottage license secured, and getting that barcode on their bags, the time to take over the granola empire was upon April and Earl.

Their stretch of market reach in Tucson now includes Flora’s Market Run and Gallery of Food Bodega with others starting to make shelf space. Ren Coffeehouse in St. Phillips Plaza not only carries Better Than Provisions but uses their granola to top their scrumptious parfaits.

Airbnb’s across Tucson offer their granola in rooms. The Joshua Tree House and the Downtown Clifton Hotel keep bowls of all three flavors in their bars and suites. Most recently, they are in the early stages of making a deal with Flores Concepts to get them in Barrio Charro and The Monica. Not to mention all of the Heirloom Farmers Markets, from Oro Valley to Green Valley, along with co-op outfits in both Mesa and Gilbert.

Can’t make it to any of the local markets and maybe a spa-like inn isn’t your thing? Just log onto the biggest shopping platform in the universe.

“We are now on Amazon,” they said.

Search for Better Than Provisions, click that “buy now” button, and in a few short days (or sometimes hours), some of the best-tasting granola on Earth — made right here in Tucson — will arrive at your door.

Not too shabby for a couple that just wanted a great-tasting snack that was full of health benefits.

Photo by Mark Whittaker

On a personal note, my history with Better Than Provisions began a few years ago.

I sampled their vanilla cinnamon variety at a neighborhood shop and wondered why they would have me try something that’s obviously found in big box stores. In other words, the packaging was just so precise and professional — had to be done in some factory.

Photo courtesy of Better Than Provisions

Photo courtesy of Better Than Provisions on Facebook

The nice person working the register informed me that it was a new small business run by a local husband-and-wife team. She does all of the baking and he does the logistics.

Then I ate the granola.

There was no way something this good was made with just a few ingredients, is non-GMO, grain-free, and produced in a small commissary close to downtown. It was so yummy that I bought one of each of their products. Healthy, delicious, and made here in Tucson? Sold.

I am a huge fan of Better Than Provisions. If you aren’t as well, you will be soon after you read this, at the weekly market, or on Amazon of all places.

“It’s all about doing this one small thing and making it a habit,” said April. “Just getting a little bit better than yesterday. The medical community offers a quick fix. You’re not getting a cure; you’re getting a band-aid. Healing within the holistic is slower because your cells are healing and detoxing. It takes time and it’s okay to take it one step at a time. With Better Than Provisions, you may not be keto or vegan but do you like tasty food? Eating something that makes you feel like you’re eating something indulgent, but it is also good for you, is what it and we are all about.”

For more information, visit betterthanprovisions.com or follow Better Than Provisions on Instagram and Facebook.

It was a Sonoran hot dog that made Mark switch from music journalism to food writing when he moved to Tucson from San Francisco in 2006. He hasn’t been the same since.

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