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Foundational Economy Capability Networks: Castell Howell Foods

Castell Howell Foods 

How the supply chain can collaborate to instigate change that leaves a social, environmental, and economic legacy. 

As an indigenous Welsh food company, Castell Howell is very much at the centre of this foundational economy.  

Serving both private and public sector hospitality and food service providers in Wales and beyond, the company recognises its responsibility to be agents for change, working towards the goals of the Economic Action Plan. 

‘Optimising the Welsh food system necessitates a focus on onshoring production for enhanced social value and nutritional content. This entails aligning menus with seasonal harvests, improving yield and supply chain data, and extending produce shelf life. Collaborative efforts will foster a more resilient system that empowers our farmers, delivers nutritious meals to the public sector, and minimises risk. While cost and efficiency challenges exist, a pragmatic approach focused on long-term objectives can yield significant benefits. Transparent procurement practices that prioritise not just price point, but also social value, environmental impact, and community engagement are essential.’

Edward Morgan – Group Corporate Social Responsibility & Training Manager, Castell Howell Foods 

This case study highlights four independent yet interlinked projects that demonstrate how the supply chain can collaborate to instigate change that leaves a social, environmental and economic legacy within the foundational economy and beyond. 

1. Locally Grown Veg to Cardiff Food and Fun – ‘The Courgette Pilot’ 

In the summer of 2022 Castell Howell (CHF) collaborated with growers Blas Gwent, Food Sense Wales and Cardiff Council to deliver locally-grown vegetables to the Welsh Government funded and WLGA managed Summer Food & Fun programme.  

A series of images of children cooking in a school setting with vegetables.

Courgettes grown near Cardiff were delivered to 22 local schools, and CHF’s development chef worked with the Council’s nutritional team to create dishes that were nutritionally balanced, palatable, and attractive to the children. The summer programme included activities such as cooking demonstrations and vegetable art. 

Food Sense Wales published a report highlighting the efficacy of the pilot and how the inclusion of locally-grown vegetables in school meals can reduce environmental impacts and benefit both the grower and the children.  

Image from Food Sense Wales Report – Courgette Pilot 

Follow this link to find out more.

The Courgette Project – Phase 2 

Phase 2 extended beyond Cardiff Council to Monmouthshire and Carmarthenshire, and included three small-scale vegetable growers: Blas Gwent (Wentloog), Langtons Farm (Crickhowell), and Bonvilston Edge (Bonvilston). Their vegetables were used for the Summer Food & Fun project by all three local authorities, with a longer-term project in Monmouthshire extending to their autumn and winter menus. To ensure that food safety was maintained, Tyfu Cymru/Farming Connect delivered safety and process training. 

An online call with several attendees. A shared presentation reads Harvesting: We need to know what has been harvested, when and was it done safely. The Harvest Record checks equipment (knives, field rigs, tractors) to make sure they are intact and clean and will not contaminate the produce. It also records the quantity harvested from which break/field.
Several people stand in a large greenhouse with tall plants around them.
Managing the Supply Chain 

Yield forecasts, menus and harvesting all had to be aligned, and allow for flexibility for seasonal variations. Authentic Foods (Hirwaun) were contracted to grow vegetables to be harvested, prepared, and, after a programme of new product development work, included in kitchen-prepared, multi-portion meals to the public sector. Dialogues with local authority catering teams on nutritional compliance, acceptability, palatability, pricing and the practicality of using school kitchens were essential to the project’s success, and in May 2023 the partners met at Langtons Farm, where a commitment was made to plant 1,000 cauliflowers to harvest in early 2024, for use in school-compliant multi-portion meals from March 2024 onwards. 

Lab results for the micronutrients for the meals developed at Authentic were of particular interest. Except for the standard Welsh Tom Pizza sauce, the results seem in line with expectations. Particularly good to see the addition of the Welsh grown spinach and chard boosting the iron and zinc values of the Cauli Cheese meal. It’s not clear what portion size a primary school child would eat, however it is hoped that the 20% added would exceed the 3g of these micronutrients that is a general baseline. 

The Welsh Beef Bolognaise (with the added spinach/chard base) seems to perform well too. 

Provided that the children are ok with 20% added Cauliflower Cheese meal (not too green looking etc), this could be great news for our cohort of growers, helping us to narrow down what can be grown well and profitably  in Wales for a target customer i.e. schools. 

  Welsh Tom Pizza Topping With 10% Spinach With 20% Spinach With 10% Chard Knorr Tom Basil Sauce Maggi (Nestle) Rich & Rustic Tin Chopp/Plum Toms Welsh Beef and Welsh Bolognese Welsh Cauli Cheese With 10% mixed leaves With 20% mixed leaves With 10% spinach 
Energy KJ/100g 168 155 161 150 213 257 80 354 359 337 329 337 
Protein g/100g 1.8 1.8 2.1 1.8 1.2 1.4 1.1 5.5 3.4 3.5 3.5 3.4 
Fat g/100g 0.3 0.2 0.3 0.3 1.1 2.8 0.1 4.6 5.3 4.9 4.5 4.8 
Sugars g/100g 5.2 4.5 4.4 4 6.9 5.7 3.8 2.7 2.7 2.4 2.3 2.3 
Fibre g/100g 2.6 2.5 2.4 2.7 0.7 1.1 0.8 2.8 1.6 2 2.33 1.7 
Sodium mg/100g 204 202 183 169 n/a n/a n/a 292 220 213 231 198 
Zinc mg/100g <2.00 2.23 3.37 3.78 n/a n/a n/a 11.6 5.56 8.65 11.3 5.62 
Iron mg/100g 7.17 5.41 6.22 6.13 n/a n/a n/a 7.84 1.81 3.54 5.53 2.74 

 2. Gower Grown Veg, Field to Fork  

In collaboration with Swansea Local Authority, Bishopston Secondary school and 4theregion, Castell Howell developed a pilot local supply chain for vegetables grown in Gower to feature on the menu at Bishopston school. The school held a fortnight of food-based activities in lessons, a school visit to the growers, and helped with the development of meals that featured on a Gower Grown school menu. 

This project helped raise awareness of nutrition, environmental impact, financial fairness across the supply chain and local food resilience.  

3. Sustainable supply chains, and ‘Scope 3’ on menus 

Food miles and Scope 3 supply chain emissions are inextricably linked. Working with hospitality providers to decide on menu options, and then with suppliers, can reduce the total environmental impact of the products. 

An example of the circular economy in action was demonstrated by the collaboration between Celtic Pride, CHF’s premium Welsh beef supplier run by the Rees family from Bryn Farm, in Pendoylan, Vale of Glamorgan, and NFU Energy. Bryn Farm received biosolids from Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, a by-product that is a rich source of nutrients and allowed the farm to reduce the need for synthetic fertilisers, which is one of the biggest challenges faced by the agricultural sector. 

An online call with several attendees. A shared presentation reads Navigating Scope 3.
Communicating the Positive Benefits to Stakeholders 

CHF promotes the environmental and social benefits of a sustainable supply chain to stakeholders through positive messaging on menus, supported by further information accessed via QR codes. 

A Sustainably Sourced Menu for a Farming Conference 

In collaboration with Cardiff Catering, CHF developed a sustainably sourced menu for the 2022 Nuffield Conference banquet. The key suppliers adopted a range of environmental objectives, including a Farm Carbon Audit with the beef farmer, net-zero potatoes, Gower-grown vegetables and cheese from regenerative farms. This film shows how the menu was created with sustainability at its heart and showcases the sustainability journey of the food producers, as well as highlighting how this was communicated to the diners. 

4. Digestibility and Nutrient Density Project 

There is a growing acceptance of the health risks posed by ultra-processed foods. CHF partnered with Aberystwyth University on a Welsh Government funded project to develop prepared meals for NHS Wales that demonstrate that nutritional, environmental, social and commercial goals need not be mutually exclusive.  

The outcomes were achieved with a range of multi-portion meals following a new and innovative product development pipeline, which included measuring the true nutritional quality of the new meals, via amino acid compositional analysis and in-vitro gastrointestinal protein digestibility scores. Protein derived from UK grown pulses was successfully substituted for red meat, ensuring that the meals still met the required nutritional standards.  

The project found that a range of flexitarian or “hybrid” meals, based on well-established and recognised meals but substituting plant-based protein sources for meat wherever possible, were the most viable in meeting the requirements. Where meat was used this was predominantly pasture-grazed Welsh beef aligned with Hybu Cig Cymru’s ‘Welsh Way’ vision of lower carbon protein derived from Welsh livestock. However the increasing price of meat since the start of the project underlined the important commercial aspects of “hybrid” foods that contain an element of Welsh meat alongside UK grown pulses. 


I cannot overstate the importance of these projects, in terms of developing the supply chain, generating product development and providing more Welsh products to Welsh schools.

Edward Morgan – Group Corporate Social Responsibility & Training Manager, Castell Howell Foods 


We at Cynnal Cymru are excited to keep you informed about the progress of this work. 

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