Demand for wine and spirits education is higher than ever both in the UK and overseas, new figures released by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) have shown.
The uptick in applications to WSET courses comes as a growing number of drinks trade businesses recognise the benefits of having staff who are formally educated in drinks, the London-based education provider said.
WSET has reported a record 85,487 candidates globally for its courses for the academic year ending 31 July 2017 – an increase of 19% on last year which marks 15 years of continuous growth.
While the UK continues to be the biggest global market for WSET study, with candidate numbers up 14% to 19,401 for the academic year ending 31 July 2017, Mainland China and USA followed closely behind and have both seen dramatic growth in the number of candidates over the past academic year – a 41% rise to 12,813 for Mainland China and a 48% rise to 11,487 for the US.
‘I am delighted to see that more and more businesses are recognising that education and well-trained staff are the foundations to better customer service and stronger profits,’ Ian Harris, WSET chief executive, said.
‘After another successful year for WSET we’re now setting out strategies to take our progress to the next level.’
In the last year, WSET has extended its global reach with the opening of its first international office, in Hong Kong, as well as launching courses in new markets including Czech Republic and Montenegro.
The US remains a focus for growth of the organisation across wine, spirits and saké. This academic year it aims to ‘cement its presence in the market’ with the appointment of a dedicated US-based team.
The positive data has emerged despite figures which show that overall wine consumption in the UK has slumped by as much as one million people since 2015.
According to Wine Intelligence UK Landscapes 2016 Report, released in June, the number of regular wine consumers in the UK has dropped from 29 million two years ago to 28 million today.
However, the positive news for the trade is that consumers spending more per bottle and showing greater interest in product information and provenance when choosing wine.
The need for more knowledgeable staff is therefore greater than ever, WSET said, which is encouraging businesses to prioritise formal training and accredited qualifications for staff.
WSET is the largest global provider of qualifications in the field of wines and spirits, with courses available in 19 languages and more than 70 countries. Since 1969 more than half a million individuals have completed a WSET qualification.
Top 10 WSET markets for the academic year 2016/17 (growth from previous year):
- UK (+14%)
- Mainland China (+41%)
- USA (+48%)
- Canada (+4%)
- Hong Kong (+16%)
- France (+32%)
- Australia (+27%)
- Taiwan (+5%)
- South Korea (+13%)
- Switzerland (+11%)