At France’s Kedge Business School, students are raising a glass to the business of wine. The school’s Wine & Spirits Academy, which is located in Bordeaux, a much-celebrated region that is renowned for classic reds and elegant whites, runs a dedicated MSc in Wine & Spirits Management.
The program may draw on its strong relationships with key players in the trade in Bordeaux, but it is being globalized. New consuming nations, such as Asian countries and female students are driving up interest for niche knowledge about the business of booze.
“We have more and more people applying for the program,” says Jeremy Cukierman, director of the Wine & Spirits Academy at Kedge. “The gender mix is evolving, with more women. And geographically speaking, we have more nationalities: 12 this year are represented and we expect more in 2020.”
He says the reputation of the program, the quality of the professors and the school’s brand-new wine lab — classrooms and work spaces, including a “creativity room”, a wine tasting room and cellar — have helped to raise demand.
The Kedge program was established in 2016 and it teaches a broad curriculum that includes wine and spirits tasting, marketing, sales, exporting and tourism. The program also covers finance, the supply chain, consumer behavior, law, regulation and entrepreneurship.
Students want a global overview of the wine and spirits industry, according to Cukierman. “Our students aspire to become wine and spirits managers and leaders,” he says. Some manage wineries or distilleries, or invest in stock themselves, but most become export, marketing or sales managers for existing brands.
For example, one alumnus took a job as the US brand manager for the Domaine de Chevalier, Domaines Von Neipperg, Château Guiraud and Sobovi wineries. Another is the sales director of Varbanov Wines. A third is the international sales developer for Les Grappes, an online wine sales website.
France’s ESSEC Business School offers master’s students the opportunity to specialize in Food Business, and previously offered a Specialized Master in International Management of Agribusiness. Students are required to take a number of courses, as the industry itself is varied. These include international purchasing strategy, commodities trading and project management.
Professor Frédéric Oble, the previous academic director of the Specialized Master in International Management of Agribusiness, says the sector is increasingly complex and companies are facing profound structural changes, such as new public policy requirements around the health and wellbeing of consumers, energy and environmental transformation, agricultural price volatility, and digital transformation and competition from such companies as Amazon and Microsoft, which use data to create value.
Oble says: “Managers must learn to navigate the many complicated facets of the sector (sustainable development, nutrition, health, resources, marketing), where they will face profound transformational challenges, such as the integration of digital technology, disintermediation, or the proliferation of FoodTech.”
As a result, he says, ESSEC has developed two additional courses around smart technology for the food business, and understanding food consumers. Students are also required to work on real projects provided by companies facing transformational issues, for example using design thinking and putting on a hackathon.
Students come out of the course as leaders of the agri-food industry, driving transformation. Alumni work for prestigious brands in marketing, trading, supply chain and logistics. Examples include L’Oréal, Cargill, McDonald’s and Chivas Brothers.
Technology is also changing the wine and spirits business, says Cukierman. “It’s true for wine and spirits production but also for marketing, promotion, sales and the supply chain.”
Kedge has numerous case studies relevant to technological transformation. There’s also two wine trips, one in France, one in a European wine producing country and around ten additional wine or spirits visits, during which new technologies are often debated. “We believe in learning by doing,” says Cukierman.
The SDA Bocconi School of Management in Italy, offers a Master of Management in Food & Beverage. The full-time, one-year program seeks to combine theoretical knowledge and practical skills to develop leaders for the food and booze industries. For example, students can take up a managerial role as part of the course, to discover how to be successful in restaurants and hotels and network with leaders.
Some do just that: two alumni work at the Italian winery Berlucchi as export manager and as junior marketing analyst, respectively; one is regional sales director at D&E Fine Wine Group in Texas; and another was previously the European manager for Chilean winery Vina Errazuriz, which is based in Santiago.
Vittoria Veronesi, program director, says that studying in Italy is an advantage. “It’s the world’s touchstone for food and beverage culture, and Milan is one of the most attractive and dynamic cities in Italy, a center where you can find the finest food and wine.”
She notes an increase in interest among women and new consuming nations, which bodes well for the industry’s and the program’s future. “Our class is composed by students from all over the world, both male and female.”