Josée-Anne Lafrance Wakefield shares her road to creating Trueffles, how she transformed the healthful treat into an elegant gift and why it’s important to give back.
By Eden Lichterman
Photography by Rachel Woolf
In search of a healthier alternative to traditional sweets, Josée-Anne Lafrance Wakefield began blending fresh ingredients in her kitchen. After concocting a mix of fruits, nuts, seeds and spices, Wakefield realized she could market her truffle-like candy substitute as a luxurious, health-conscious gift. So, in May 2017, she founded Trueffles — simply made truffles made with real ingredients.
The Birmingham resident grew up and lived in Montreal for many years, where she advocated for clean lifestyles. Her project focused on “non-tobacco use, exercising and eating healthy, targeting children at a very early age,” she says.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 40 percent of adults and 1 out of 5 children in the U.S. are obese. Wakefield says these numbers indicate a crisis, and she wants to help people overcome binge-eating. “We should … care about what we put in our body, and I think it really does make a difference in your happiness,” she says.
Wakefield hopes to inspire healthy eating habits by producing Trueffles, which are sold through her health foods company Bisoufoods and benefit the local food rescue nonprofit Forgotten Harvest. “We really want to make a difference in promoting healthy eating in Detroit and nationally,” Wakefield says.
With her headquarters in Detroit and a commercial kitchen in Metro Detroit, Wakefield oversees the production of each Trueffle. She worked with a nutritionist to ensure her products contain high nutrient levels. Each treat is under 50 calories, gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, corn-free, non-GMO and vegan, with no added sugar or oil.
The product comes in three flavors: Cherry Zing, Pecan Dream and Lemon Twist. Wakefield says her favorite is Cherry Zing, though she had a hard time picking just one. While Trueffles may not curb that chocolate craving, the combination of fruity and nutty flavors creates a delicious semi-sweet confection.
Trueffles have a shelf life of four months, but Wakefield recommends refrigerating them since they don’t contain any preservatives or fillers.
In addition to perfecting the ingredients, Wakefield focused heavily on the packaging. Before developing Trueffles, she lived in Tokyo for three years where she was inspired by the sleek wrapping of something as simple as a carrot.
“I thought it was so cool that you would have this little carrot that was really nicely packaged, and you would eat less because it was so beautiful,” she says.
Set on developing a lavish container, Wakefield worked with Detroit artist Daniela Pianigiani to create colorful, botanical paintings reminiscent of the three flavors, which wrap around each box.
Wakefield also worked with Lakshmi Shetti, an Ann Arbor-based graphic designer, who led the design of the packaging. Adding a sustainable aspect to her brand, Wakefield covers all 10 Trueffles per container individually with silver, compostable wrappers. “I wanted them packaged as a candy,” she says. “But it would be this beautiful candy (wrapper) that would be compostable.”
On the Trueffles website trueffleshop.com, shoppers can choose from multiple gift options. With shipping and handling fees, prices range from $14.85 for a single, tissue-wrapped box of Trueffles to $225 for the large ultimate gift box, including containers of each flavor and a yearlong Trueffles subscription. Every package, regardless of price, comes with the option to add a handwritten note for the recipient.
Each Trueffles box includes a sleeve, which Wakefield recommends using as a bookmark, that tells the brand’s story and highlights its motto: “be yourself, be inspired, be kind.”
“It’s really important that you believe in what you do, so we’re passionate about making healthier food,” says Wakefield, referring to “be yourself” of her motto. She continues, “We think it’s really good to have this convention in your life to always try to be inspired with people, with just beauty in your life every day.”
The third part of the motto — “be kind” — speaks to the final and arguably most important aspect of the brand.
“The real mission behind all this is really to give back to the community,” Wakefield says. “So, regardless if we’re just starting as a business, we give one nutritious meal to a family in need through Forgotten Harvest for every container (of Trueffles sold).”
For the past four years, Wakefield has served on the special events committee for Forgotten Harvest, which collects and distributes healthy meals for people in need in Metro Detroit. When she created Trueffles, Wakefield decided to further her involvement and partner with the nonprofit.
“We weren’t an afterthought,” says Nicky Heins, events and cause marketing manager for Forgotten Harvest, adding, “Right from the very beginning, we started these discussions (about partnering) with her. And it’s just an indicator of what a giving person she is.”
Unlike many food donation programs, Forgotten Harvest donates fresh, perishable food. “It’s actually healthy food, and I thought that was wonderful because sometimes it’s really hard for people in need to have access to healthy food,” Wakefield says.
Heins adds the goals of the two organizations align. “For us, the fresh and the healthy is a really important part of our mission. It’s right in line with her healthy, decadent treats that she’s selling … So, it just was a natural partnership,” Heins says.
Wakefield remains committed to providing high-quality products for her customers. “Sometimes I’ll have a delivery in Birmingham and I’ll go,” Wakefield laughs. “I want it fresh. I don’t want to put it in the mail.”
While she can’t always hand deliver Trueffles shipped around the country, Wakefield says she feels fortunate to have the opportunity to follow her passion for mindful eating. “It’s a luxury to be able to do what you really love,” Wakefield says. “So, I’m really grateful for that.”