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For the new academic year, a new Master of Science specialising in the wine and gastronomy market will be available at NEOMA. A programme focusing on the wealth and uniqueness of the Reims ecosystem. Interview with Nathalie Spielmann, head of this programme.
How did you come up with the idea for this MSc?
The Champagne region is an eco-system and the programme aims to take full advantage of the School's regional roots. Today, the wine and gastronomy sector is a combination of luxury and tradition in a world that is undergoing constant change. Champagne is a luxury product, when it comes from the Great Champagne Houses. But the independent champagne producers are distancing themselves from the codes associated with luxury and opting for a more regional and authentic approach. When things are put in perspective, this market also demands a strategic approach: we all make at least 3 food choices each day. It has also been claimed that, on average, one third of the population's budget is spent on food and drink. NEOMA is fortunate, thanks to its geographical location, to have been in a position to forge partnerships with some of the biggest names in champagne and gastronomy over the years. Moreover, with market trends for traceability, we can see that people are turning towards local or 'terroir' produce more and more. This reality needs to be taken into account with each marketing decision. This programme is therefore highly relevant!
What major market developments are currently taking place?
A lot of the production is based on traditional methods, i.e. precise and regulated manufacturing processes. For example, producing a Normandy Camembert relies on know-how passed on from generation to generation and according to AOP (Protected Designation of Origin) criteria. Nevertheless, this camembert is also evolving in an ever-changing world and facing numerous challenges. An industry where sustainable development is becoming increasingly important. In a digital environment where brand management has become even more complex than it was in the past. With consumers changing their diets, desires and fashions every year. Through this new Master's degree, we aim to provide students with training in this important cultural sector of wine and gastronomy. Secondly, we aim to teach students how to react to multiple market disruptions. We also want them to be able to adopt a theoretical, cultural, academic and sociological approach.
Can you give us a rough outline of the programme?
First, we wanted this programme to focus on strategic marketing. Marketing strategy, branding, but also anything related to food economics, agri-business and business development and without ignoring export. The students will also receive  brand management training and an opportunity to discuss anything related to cross-cultural marketing. How to respond to globalization and cultural differences? This implies looking into why certain products are highly successful on certain markets, yet remain impossible to sell on others. White, for example, is synonymous with bad luck and grief in China. Therefore, it would be unthinkable to launch a white-packaged product on the Chinese market. We also work on reputation and how it can be adapted to a digital context. There will also be a module related to context management. Why do people eat the way they do? Experts will present a history of taste and the practices related to certain products. In the past, dunking a pink biscuit in champagne was an perfectly acceptable, whereas today it would be total heresy. There will also be courses on geopolitics. How should we react to rulings such as Trump's duties on French wine, for example? And finally, collective and territorial marketing through the principle of cooperation, a vital issue in certain sectors. This will allow graduates to have a dominant marketing focus, yet with the necessary skills to understand the product, context and all the elements that may impact the market.
Is the market looking for any specific skills?
Today, companies and market players are looking for people who have a critical mind, a certain way of looking at things. The programme is designed to provide graduates with 360° vision and the cultural knowledge to react to the unexpected, as well as the ability to construct and defend an argument. A hypermarket wine section has somewhere in the region of 800 wine references. However, the average consumer takes just under 90 seconds to choose their wine. As a brand, how can you ensure that the consumer will choose yours? The curriculum is demanding and students need to work a lot in class. As such, I want them to have an extremely solid theoretical foundation and achieve a level of excellence. I also intend to set up workshops in parallel with the courses for the MSc. These are an ideal way of applying classroom theory to real-life practical situations. The idea is to include renowned partners with the objective of learning from professionals as well as teachers. Our students will therefore have the opportunity of becoming future marketing and export managers, analysts or even journalists and expert influencers.

As the new head of the MSc Wine and Gastronomy, you must have a special interest in these two themes?
spielmann nathalie mscEven before I joined NEOMA, I always took a strong interest in the wine and gastronomy market. When I was in Montreal, I even wrote a blog about my favourite wines and food, which was quite successful. So, I quickly found myself at home in Reims. Outside the region, few people are actually aware  that there are different production regions in Champagne. Since 2015, I have also been working on how to make Reims and Greater Reims more attractive to stakeholders, in collaboration with the city of Reims. For example, I am working on an experiential approach aimed at encouraging tourists to visit this beautiful region.

>Learn more about the MSc Wine and Gastronomy of NEOMA Business School