FE Research

Academic research for the Foundational Economy

Castell Howell Foods – Supply Chain 

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. 

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.  

A group of school children stand around a beehive with a beekeeper.

Watch the video: From Gower Fields to Local Forks | Taster Day 

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. 

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. 

Castell Howell Foods – Supply Chain  Read More »

Foundational Economy Community of Practice Research


Foundational economy: delivery plan (2021).

Welsh Government’s commitments and delivery plan to the end of the current Senedd term.

Latest policy interventions to strengthen the Welsh foundational economy. Including a Challenge Fund to support novel approaches to tackle issues within the foundational economy, opportunities from procurement reform and actions regarding parts of the Welsh foundational economy; construction, food, social care and afforestation.  

Access Welsh Government’s foundational economy delivery plan

Policy Read More »

Foundational Economy Community of Practice Research

Community wealth building

Community wealth building is an approach to economic development aimed at changing the way that economies function so that more wealth and opportunity is retained for local people. In this way, its approach is similar to practitioners working within the foundational economy, with their focus on grounded, local firms. Community wealth building has been used successfully in Preston – known as the ‘Preston Model’ and is increasingly being used by The Scottish Government.  

Community wealth building webpage.


Access the community wealth building webpage

Community wealth building: a history (podcast) (2021).


Listen to the community wealth building history podcast

What is the Preston Model? (2022).

Preston City Council.  

Read the article from Preston City Council on the Preston Model

How we built community wealth in Preston: achievements and lessons (2019).

CLES and Preston City Council.  

Read the publication from CLES and Preston City Council on how they built community wealth in Preston

Community wealth building and The Scottish Government

Read the report from the Scottish Government on community wealth building

Community wealth building Read More »

Foundational Economy Community of Practice Research

Place-based studies

Several deep-dive studies have been undertaken to understand the dynamics behind different areas and their populations and to explore the approaches needed to develop strong foundational economies and well-being.

Small towns, big issues: aligning business models, organisation, imagination (2021).

Luca Calafati, Julie Froud, Colin Haslam, Sukhdev Johal and Karel Williams. Foundational Economy Research for Welsh Government’s Home and Places Division and Education and Public Services Group

Download the paper from Foundational Economy Research on aligning business models, organisation and imagination

The business potential of the foundational economy in the south Wales valleys (2020).

Bevan Foundation.  

A report, funded by Welsh Government’s Foundational Economy Challenge Fund, drawing lessons from interviews with businesses of the foundational economy across three communities in the south Wales valleys – Cwmafan, Treharris and Treherbert. Authors conclude that across all communities, there are businesses with potential to grow from micro and small businesses into successful SMEs. The authors argue that, given the types of businesses that exist in the south Wales valleys, developing the foundational economy requires a different approach to past economic measures. They suggest support tailored and targeted to micro businesses, with more effective communication between business, support services, local and Welsh Government and addressing the lack of availability for premises suitable for expansion including conversion of empty properties. A sister report published by the Bevan Foundation, Consumer spending in the foundational economy (2021), Lloyd Jones looks at the foundational economy within the same communities but from the perspective of the consumer. 

Download the paper from the Bevan Foundation on the business potential of the foundational economy in the south Wales valleys

Download the sister report from the Began Foundation on consumer spending in the foundational economy

Enabling renewal: future education and building better citizenship, occupations and business communities in Wales (2020).

John Buchanan, Julie Froud, Mark Lang, Caroline Lloyd, Bruce Smith and Karel Williams. foundational economy.com for ColegauCymru 

Download the paper from foundationaleconomy.com on future education and building better citizenship, occupations and business communities in Wales

How an ordinary place works: understanding Morriston (2019).

Luca Calafati, Jill Ebrey, Julie Froud, Colin Haslam, Sukhdev Johal and Karel Williams. foundational economy.com 

Research aiming to understand how Morriston, Swansea works to deliver well-being to the people who live there. Authors argue that this well-being depends on the functioning of foundational services and that understanding a place using metrics of well-being, rather than traditional economic metrics, can support new policy to tackle to liveability issues that truly matter to citizens. In this vein, the authors provide policy ideas for a town plan to revitalise Morriston’s social infrastructure.   

Download the paper on foundationaleconomy.com on how an ordinary place works: understanding Morriston

Place-based studies Read More »

Foundational Economy Community of Practice Research

Business support and fair work

Foundational sectors often struggle to implement, or benefit from, fair work practices. The following reports explore how this could be changed.

A better balance: business support for the foundational economy (2021).

Jack Watkins. The Institute of Welsh Affairs and Centre for Regeneration Excellence Wales.  

A review of business support policy and practice of Business Wales, the Development Bank of Wales and Welsh Government and opportunities for changes to better support the foundational economy – ensuring grounded Welsh firms can receive necessary support to supply high quality everyday goods and services. Authors find that current support has positive impacts however only reaches a minority of Welsh firms, because it is often targeted at high-growth firms and particular sectors. Thus, the current support currently does not effectively support micro-firms to become successful and sustainable SMEs – a key part of a healthy foundational economy. Authors suggest measures for policy makers could take to make business support work for the foundational economy better.  

Download the paper from The Institute of Welsh Affairs and Centre for Regeneration Excellence Wales on business support for the foundational economy

Fair work in the foundational economy: what should be done (2021).

Victoria Winckler. Bevan Foundation.   

A report bringing together key findings from work previously published by the Bevan Foundation on experiences of working within some sectors of the foundational economy and an international review of promising policy and practice to approaches to fair work. It shows that work in the foundational economy is often of low quality including low pay and low hours, highlighting a need to improve terms and conditions. Drawing lessons from the international review, the report makes recommendations for a range of actors including policy makers, local government, Business Wales and the Development Bank for Wales to support fair work within the foundational economy.  Authors use The Fair Work Commission in Wales’ components of fair work; fair reward, employee voice and collective representation, security and flexibility, opportunity for access, growth and progression, safe healthy and inclusive work and that legal rights are respected and given substantive effect.  

Download the paper from the Bevan Foundation on fair work in the foundational economy

Fair work in the foundational economy: key data (2021).

Anne Green and Paul Sissons. Bevan Foundation.  

Download the report from the Bevan Foundation for key data on fair work in the foundational economy

The impact of regulation in the foundational economy (2021).

Jack Watkins and The Means. The Institute of Welsh Affairs, Centre for Regeneration Excellence Wales and The Means.  

An outline of the effect of current regulations and their enforcement on Welsh small and medium firms of the foundational economy. Authors use interviews with business owners in construction, social care, food and manufacturing demonstrating confusion over rules, the complexity of overlapping requirements and overly rigid enforcement. The report outlines how regulation and enforcement can disproportionately impact small and medium sized business, causing difficulty for new businesses to be successful. Authors make a series of recommendations for regulatory bodies, including Welsh Government and local authorities to help support small and medium sized businesses of the foundational economy.  

Download the paper from the Institute of Welsh Affairs, Centre of Regeneration Excellence Wales and The Means on the impact of regulation in the foundational economy

What can Welsh Government do to increase the number of grounded SME firms in food processing and distribution? (2021).

Andrew Bowman, Julie Froud, Colin Haslam, Sukhdev Johal, Kevin Morgan and Karel Williams. Foundational Economy Research.   

An analysis of the Welsh food system from field to fork and the business models of SMEs which form a part of this system, with recommendations on a range of coordinated policies to secure and increase the number of grounded Welsh SMEs processing and distributing food. Authors define a Welsh grounded SME as an SME which is independently owned in Wales with a high proportion of assets in Wales. Authors argue specific policies are required for the specific characteristics of every food system, including Wales. They put forward a number of priorities to move forward; one, engage supermarket chains in a greater effort to recruit Welsh SME suppliers, two, effectively use public procurement to create demand side opportunity and finally maintain and consolidate infrastructures to support Welsh food SMEs. 

Download the paper from Foundational Economy Research on what the Welsh Government can do to increase the number of grounded SME firms in food processing and distributing

Business support and fair work Read More »

Foundational Economy Community of Practice Research

A low carbon economy 

A stable climate cannot be achieved unless all parts of the economy decarbonise and operate within environmental limits. These reports consider the role that foundational sectors could play in reshaping a more climate-positive future.

Turning rhetoric into reality: decarbonising the foundational economy (2022).

Jack Watkins. The Institute of Welsh Affairs and Centre for Regeneration Excellence Wales.  

A look at the effect of decarbonisation on the Welsh economy (including parts of the foundational economy) and the potential for disruption and unemployment. The authors highlight the lack of understanding within certain industries of their future within a net zero world and consider different approaches to support them, including increasing vocational education and for more powers to be transferred to local authorities to help them respond to their local opportunities and encourage stronger relationships with local business. The report also considers if Wales’s performance in research and innovation may limit the ability of new Welsh firms to benefit from the opportunities stemming from net zero commitments.  

Download the paper from IWA on Turning Rhetoric into Reality: Decarbonising the Foundational Economy

Serious about green? Building a Welsh wood economy through co-ordination (2020)

Luca Calafati, Julie Froud, Colin Haslam, Sukhdev Johal and Karel Williams. Foundational Economy Research Limited for Woodknowledge Wales.  

Work arguing for the need to develop the ‘foundational economy 2.0’; the provision of goods and services for everyday life which also safeguard the well-being of future generations, for example through the substitution of steel, cement and fossil fuels for wood and renewable energy. The report focusses on developing the wood economy of Wales, providing ways which afforestation and the creation of high value timber products such as timer framed housing could be increased. The report draws lessons from The Republic of Ireland and Scotland who have successfully managed afforestation and processing high value timber products.  

Download the paper from Foundational Economy Research on building a Welsh wood economy through co-ordination

Renewable energy in the foundational economy (2020)

Bevan Foundation and RWE Renewables.  

Download the paper from the Bevan Foundation on Renewable energy in the foundational economy

A low carbon economy  Read More »

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