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Louis Barnett
Born November 2, 1991 (1991-11-02) (age 18)
Occupation chocolatier
Years active 2005-present
Employer self-employed

Louis Barnett (born 2 November, 1991)[1] from Kinver, Staffordshire is a licensed chocolatier who became the youngest supplier of both the Sainsbury's and Waitrose supermarket chains at the age of 14.[2] He left school at the age of 11 because of learning difficulties and was later diagnosed with dyslexia and dispraxia. His parents continued his education through homeschooling. He started making chocolates for friends and family and in 2005 he started his company Chokolit Ltd. to deal with the growing demand. He received the Lord Carter Award for excellence in the food industry and was nominated for a Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2007. He was also a finalist in the teen category of the 2007 Enterprising Young Brits Awards.


Early life and education

Barnett was raised by his parents Phil and Mary Barnett in the town of Kinver, Staffordshire. Besides his work as a chocolatier, he is also a beer bottle collector, a champagne connaisseur and an amateur photographer.[3]

Throughout school, Barnett struggled to meet the teachers' expectations. They were satisfied with his vocabulary and general knowledge, but they focused on his weak points like maths and written work.[3] Because other children didn't understand him, he would get into fights[4] and be the target of bullying.[2] At the age of 11, after just six weeks of secondary school, his parents took him out of the regular schooling system and gave him a vocational homeschooling program. His problems were later discovered to be caused by dyslexia and dyspraxia. His parents soon discovered they couldn't educate their son alone, so they hired a tutor (Jan) who helped determine Barnett's interests. He decided to learn about chocolate and champagne.[3] He has since taken up fencing to improve his coordination (which is affected by dyspraxia).[5]


After a falconry experience day,[6] Barnett spent 18 months working as a volunteer at a falconry centre. He started out cleaning and gardening, but was eventually trusted to fly the birds of prey in shows and corporate events. His experience resulted in the permission to keep his pet African eagle owl Jewell.[5] One day he bought a book titled "Belgian Chocolate Cakes and Chocolate"[2] from a nearby garden centre.[7] He started by making chocolate mousse and cakes, but eventually he focused on making chocolates[2] and he became the youngest person to go on a course (and get certified) at the Banbury branch of the prestigious Callebaut Chocolate Academy.[4][7][8] and he also works as a public speaker.[9]


Barnett started making chocolates in his kitchen[10] for friends and family, but when he started selling the chocolates to local businesses, he had to move the operation to the garage.[3] Chokolit was founded in 2005 and funded with a local grant of £5,000 and a £500 loan from his grandparents to buy a special machine that regulates chocolate temperature. The name of the company was chosen because that was how he used to spell chocolate due to his dyslexia.[11]

Soon his parents' garage was too small to deal with the growing demand and production had to relocate to a new factory in Bridgnorth, Shropshire. The factory was officially opened by South Staffordshire MP Sir Patrick Cormack on 14 December 2007.[1] The company's signature product is the edible chocolate box which Barnett created when he was 13 to cut down on packaging expenses[2][11] chocolate handbags using 53% pure dark chocolate supplied by Callebaut.[3][12]

Barnett now employs his parents and his former tutor.[3] He signed a contract with a store in Moscow[4] and started exporting to Sweden.[10] His father quit his regular job to join the company.[13]


Barnett is involved in a lobby for the reclassification of palm oil together with the Sumatran Orang-utan Society (SOS). In contrast to other vegetable oils which have been connected to the health and longevity of Mediterranean people, palm oil is saturated and not healthy. Despite this, palm oil is widely used in the confectionery industry which he believes devalues the product.[2] It is also used as a bio fuel. He claims that the loss of rain forest to provide space for palm plantations causes the destruction of the only remaining habitat of Sumatran orang-utans and that together with the carbon dioxide formed by burning the oil it leads to a net increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.[9]

In support of this effort he has released a range of chocolate bars called "Biting Back Bar" which he launched on 29 May, 2008 at Chester Zoo, the first place to stock the bars.[2][14] The first bar, the "Orang-utan Biting Back Bar", contains dark chocolate bar and has a hint of orange. Of each bar five pence is donated to the Sumatran Orang-utan Society and another five pence goes to Chester Zoo’s Bornean Orang-utan Conservation Programme. It is sold by Chokolit, Sainsbury’s, Selfridge’s and several British zoos. The two other bars, which are exclusively sold by Sainsbury's, are the "Amur Tiger & Leopard Biting Back Bar", a milk chocolate bar with a crunch (which gives ten pence per bar to ALTA (Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance) and the "Tiger Biting Back Bar", a white chocolate bar with a hint of lemon (donating ten pence per bar to Tiger Awareness).[12][10]

Early in 2008, the MP who opened Chokolit's Bridgnorth production facility arranged for Barnett to meet Prime Minister Gordon Brown and conservative leader David Cameron at the Houses of Parliament. He discussed his views on palm oil with the politicians, showed the first "Biting Back Bar" and discussed opening a new outlet with House of Commons catering chiefs. Cameron called Barnett "a most remarkable young man who has the makings of becoming one of the significant entrepreneurs of the next decade".[15]

As of 9 January, 2009 Sainsbury's have sold 40,000 bars, raising a total of £4,000 for the various charities. Tiger Awareness have already been given £1,340. He plans to launch another bar to promote a campaign to save the Black Rhino by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation. The National Geographic Society has asked Barnett to make a further three bars to support its Big Cat Initiative and The Great Plains campaign.[10]

Awards and honours

  • Lord Carter Award for excellence in the food industry (won)[2]
  • Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2007 (nominated)[13][16]
  • 2007 Enterprising Young Brits Awards (finalist, teen category)[17]
  • Heart of England Fine Foods Diamond Awards (shortlisted, confectionary category)[18]
  • Food Processing Awards 2007(finalist, Packaging Innovation of the Year)[19 ]


  1. ^ a b Holder, Bev (2007-10-31). "Louis's Chokolits go global". Stourbridge News. Retrieved 2009-01-07.  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Jones, Alison (2008-09-12). "Louis has got the chocolate business licked". Birmingham Post. Retrieved 2009-01-09.  
  3. ^ a b c d e f Tracey, Emma (2008-12-16). "One day with ... chocolatier Louis Barnett". Ouch!. BBC. Retrieved 2009-01-13.  
  4. ^ a b c "'Real-life Willy Wonka' opens his own chocolate factory aged just 16". Daily Mail Online. 2007-12-14. Retrieved 2009-01-13.  
  5. ^ a b "13 Questions: Louis Barnett". BBC Ouch!. 2007-10-30. Retrieved 2009-01-09.  
  6. ^ "Sweet sixteen". DisabilityNow. Retrieved 2009-01-27.  
  7. ^ a b Machell, Ben (2007-12-01). "Tastes like teen spirit". Times Online: pp. 2. Retrieved 2009-01-09.  
  8. ^ . = 2009-01-09.  
  9. ^ a b Kiddey, Guy (2008-02-15). "Chokolit Connoisseur". The Globalist. Retrieved 2009-01-27.  
  10. ^ a b c d "Louis's campaign continues". Stourbridge News. 2009-01-08. Retrieved 2009-01-27.  
  11. ^ a b Oliver, Jamie (2007-07-11). "Starting out: At 15, Louis signs a deal with Waitrose". Retrieved 2009-01-27.  
  12. ^ a b Eden Can Can (2008-10-08). "'Chokolit’ - the new handmade, delicious and environmentally aware British chocolate collection". Press release. Retrieved 2009-01-09.  
  13. ^ a b "Teenager starts chocolate factory". BBC Online. 2007-10-24. Retrieved 2009-01-27.  
  14. ^ Chokolit Ltd.. "Biting Back Bar: Orang-utans are disappearing fast from our planet". Press release. Retrieved 2009-01-27.   (PDF)
  15. ^ "Louis shows off his green credentials". Shropshire Star. 2008-03-27. Retrieved 2009-02-01.  
  16. ^ "UK's teenage chocolate entrepreneur". Independent Television News. 2007-10-27. Retrieved 2009-01-09.  
  17. ^ "The week in pictures". Shropshire Star. 2007-11-14. Retrieved 2009-01-09.  
  18. ^ Diamond Awards
  19. ^

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