Behind the Magic Jar

How three entrepreneurs revamped an age-old breakfast and made it the fuel-of-choice for today’s endurance athletes.

When years of hustling in tech startups wreaked havoc on Samuel Scofy’s health, the Quebec City entrepreneur went looking for answers. His curiosity led him, as it often did, to seek more alternative methods. Eventually, an holistic health coach named Christophe Contant prescribed him a daily regimen of movement, time in nature, and whole foods that, when combined, alleviated his pain. One recipe in particular–a blend of nuts, seeds, vitamins, and probiotics that soaked overnight to be eaten in the morning changed his life. A turbocharged twist on Bircher Muesli, it restored his energy levels, helped heal his gut, and promptly got his wheels turning. Over the next two years, Sam, Chris, and an angel investor-turned-CEO named Charles Sansregret fundraised, brainstormed, and recipe-tweaked the product of their dreams: a a magic muesli nutritious enough to help people go the distance—whether that was the last stretch of an ultramarathon or the third consecutive all-nighter with a newborn–while still, important, being fun to eat. They called it HOLOS, derived from the Ancient Greek word holo ὅλος, meaning "whole,” because of everything it is and aspires to be: the breakfast of champions and casual joggers, a real-food revolution in a reusable jar.

As a kid growing up in Quebec City, a French-speaking city with cobblestone streets and old European charm, Samuel T. Scofy always dreamed of starting his own company like his childhood idol Richard Branson. By 23, he’d actually done it. After dropping out of college and hustling in the music business–working for management companies and a live-streaming startup–he moved to Toronto and co-founded an app that let fans record themselves lip-syncing to songs as a way to create crowd-sourced music videos. The app, called JamCam, experienced some early success, partnering with PSY (of “Gangnam Style” fame) and launching Maroon 5’s single “Sugar.” But in the end, they struggled to gain traction and stay independent, ultimately losing out to their primary competitor, a Chinese app now known as TikTok.

The stress of working in startups had taken its toll, and in early 2015, Sam returned to Quebec physically and emotionally depleted. Making matters worse, his on-the-go lifestyle–long flights, cheap meals, and living paycheck to paycheck–had wreaked havoc on his health, leaving him chronically bloated and burned out.

He was determined to hit the reset button, but resolving his health issues was harder than he anticipated. “Everything I tried felt insufficient,” Sam says. “I met with doctors. I took supplements and drank protein shakes. But nothing helped the bloating. My energy was still zapped. It was maddening.”

Eventually, one of Sam’s best friends connected him with Chris Contant, a holistic health nut and yoga teacher who had recently moved back from British Columbia where he studied at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. An avid surfer, free-skier, and hardcore outdoorsman obsessed with natural foods, he’s “part caveman, part guru, part spiritual guide,” says Sam, and has a pantry stocked with supplements, superfoods, and chaga mushrooms that he harvested in the forest. He drafted Sam an alternative health plan, one without medications or trendy shortcuts. Instead, it focused on a mix of daily movement (yoga, meditation, martial arts) and a diet rich in real, organic food.

Chris’ approach centered on the slow-burning power of complex carbohydrates, which were delivered through a custom concoction of grains, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, spices, superfoods and probiotics that soaked overnight to be consumed in the morning. A modern twist on Bircher Müesli, the popular European breakfast invented by pioneering Swiss physician Dr. Maximilian Bircher-Brenner in the early 1900s, it was loaded with plant proteins, fiber, vitamins and minerals yet tasted like an elevated oatmeal. Dr. Birch-Brenner understood the medicinal power of muesli: In the early 1900s, he prescribed the blend at his famous holistic health clinics where he treated patients with diet, exercise, and natural sunlight instead of traditional medicine. A century later in Quebec City, Chris had been workshoping his own spin on the recipe, calling it his “magic formula” for yoga and endurance training. Most importantly, for Sam, it worked.

“I healed completely in a couple of months,” he says. “And I loved everything about the magic muesli. I felt light and supercharged. My entrepreneurial wheels started turning.” Sam asked Chris to make him 10 ziploc bags of the blend. A few weeks later, they set up a makeshift factory in Sam’s mom’s basement where they packaged the muesli in dollar-store jars to sell to family and friends.

That summer, they isolated themselves in a cottage in Mont Sainte-Anne to build the company of their dreams. By living their target consumers’ core values–early morning sunlight, HOLOS for breakfast, raw fruits and vegetables, and long walks across the mountain's slopes and summits to harness the healing power of nature–they fine-tuned their vision for a brand that connected nutrition with nature. Once the product was absolutely perfect–nutty, grainy, and not too powdery, with a nutrient level superior to everything on the market–they called it HOLOS, a derivation of the Ancient Greek word “holo” (ὅλος), meaning “whole,” as a way to honor the balance and spirit necessary for a long and healthy life. “In the end, it’s about more than diet and exercise,” Chris says. “Holistic health is about everything–fresh air, good company, a clear mind, deep sleep, and remembering to have fun.”

Over the next three years, Sam and Chris gave HOLOS everything they had–sweat, tears, and their entire savings. By the winter of 2018, they'd raised enough funds to open their first mini-factory where they fulfilled 400 orders by hand. As word spread, they caught the attention of Charles Sansregret–an angel investor and marketing expert with a deep passion for the outdoors and endurance sports–who proved to be the final piece of the puzzle. "I wanted to help build a brand that represented my lifestyle–active, busy, healthy,” Charles says. “And it had to be a tangible, physical product. HOLOS ticked every box.”

It helped that Charles ran in a circle of serious outdoors enthusiasts. His long-term partner Elisabeth Cauchon and her brother, Jeff, are two of the best ultra trail-runners in Canada who travel the world and scale mountains competitively. They began bringing HOLOS with them wherever they went––ski vacations, camping, hiking, to races around the world––and in 2020, Sam directed and produced his first docu-film about Jeff’s attempt to set a new world record at the height of the pandemic. (You can probably guess what he fueled up on.) Today, HOLOS is deeply tied to Quebec City’s booming trail-running community, and has become a go-to breakfast for runners, cyclists, surfers, yogis, and nature fanatics around North America.

In many ways, endurance sports embodies everything HOLOS stands for: the allure of pushing your physical limits, the mental rigor it requires to do so, the restorative elements of being in nature, and the power of community. It’s also an activity that, like a clean diet, can help build your endurance. This is critical for Chris, who promised himself years ago that he’d try to live to 100. In reality, he wants more than that. “I want to surf at 100. I want to climb at 100. I want to feel good,” he says. With HOLOS, you’ll find a tribe of ambitious, adventurous people hellbent on eating well and living life to the fullest. So grab a jar, feel the force, and go the distance.