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Mountain Xpress: Threshold ‘Fuels the Moment’

FROM BAKLAVA TO ENERGY BARS: Threshold Provisions founders Josh Mitchell and Diane Hutt figured that the best way to have access to palatable energy bars and other food for high-endurance sports was to make it themselves. Photo by Tobias Llaves
FROM BAKLAVA TO ENERGY BARS: Threshold Provisions founders Josh Mitchell and Diane Hutt figured that the best way to have access to palatable nutrition bars and other food for high-endurance sports was to make it themselves. Photo by Tobias Llaves

Josh Mitchell and Diane Hutt could have walked straight off the pages of Outside magazine. Josh braved Alaskan fishing for 14 years. Diane, a former Mars Hill University professor, tests her mettle with Alaskan fishing when she’s not working as an Antarctic lab technician.

Both love high-endurance sports. A normal day for Mitchell is CrossFit followed by mountain biking. But apparently, trekking the world and keeping incredibly fit is not enough: These folks aim for nothing less than changing the nature of the foods consumed by highly active people.

Their solution? Salmon jerky and exotically flavored Threshold bars. Appropriately, the tag line for their business, Threshold Provisions, is “Fuel the Moment!”

“Everyone has a moment in their adventurous lives, and we want to be a part of it,” notes Mitchell, whose affable, soft-spoken manner belies the intense nature of his chosen recreations. Hutt was off assisting scientists studying Antarctic seals when Xpress caught up with Mitchell, who’s now traded the rigors of the Alaskan seas for the challenge of launching a business.

He calls it “one of the hardest and most rewarding things we’ve done. It’s the same sort of adventure, but in a new setting.”

Threshold’s current headquarters is at Blue Ridge Food Ventures business incubator at Advantage West in Enka.
The couple’s salmon jerky is available at their online store and through local retail outlets. Mitchell says the idea stemmed from his dissatisfaction with traditional jerky’s ability to sustain energy.

“Most people never equated salmon with jerky,” he explains. “It gave us a means to bring some magic from Alaska and transform it into a tasty, shelf-stable form.”

Now, though, the business’s focus is its Threshold bars, which come in flavors like cherry-coconut and blueberry-ginger. All are gluten-, dairy- and soy-free.

“We created the bars because we wanted something that was moist enough to be palatable after exercise,” says Mitchell. Research and development began in 2009; luckily, Hutt hails from a long line of elite Dutch bakers. But how to make the perfect bar?

The answer was inspired by a traditional Greek pastry. “Diane made baklava before the 2009 Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race,” says Mitchell, adding, “I was able to stomach it after the 12-hour race. The honey, sugar and dates were very sustaining.”

Hutt and Mitchell continued to play with the recipe, and by last winter, they were ready to challenge their next batch of guinea pigs — a worldly and demanding bunch.

“I was invited down to Patagonia by my friend who designs gear for Arc’teryx,” Mitchell explains. “He takes athletes out to test his gear. I came along to do real-time food testing.”

At that point, however, Mitchell’s self-doubt seeped in. “Once at base camp, I felt intimidated. These were pros; here were my feeble attempts to provide provisions against well-made brands.”

But his fears proved unfounded: The climbers loved both products, especially the jerky.

“It was a huge boost of confidence,” says Mitchell, beaming. “A lot of the athletes told me, ‘These nutritious snacks are the best thing going right now.’”

They also doled out some advice about the bars. “No added sugars, gluten, dairy, soy or GMOs were all aspects that I was asked to link together by both the sponsored athletes in Patagonia and local athletes within this community,” Mitchell reports.

And now comes the final test: By the time you read this, the Threshold bars will be available at local stores and online. And Threshold’s products, Mitchell stresses, aren’t aimed exclusively at members of the CrossFit nation — they’re for anyone seeking a healthier way to eat.

“It’s hard to balance a busy lifestyle with eating well,” he says. “We are trying to bridge that gap with easy, healthy food.” — Hunter Pope

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