- Jungle Jim’s International Market, which has offered cooking courses for 25 years, is moving some of its classes online beginning Thursday, according to an emailed press release.
- The classes will be hosted by cooking school head Leah Ochs and offer varying levels of engagement. Shoppers can purchase a course and watch a demonstration. Or, for a higher price, they can also get the course recipe and a corresponding ingredients kit that includes everything pre-measured and chopped.
- Costs vary by class and range from $25 to $95. There are currently four courses available, including a baking course, an Italian cooking class and a Jack Daniel's whiskey tasting. The programs will be hosted on the Zoom videoconferencing platform.
Jungle Jim’s virtual cooking classes allow it to continue offering at least one of its beloved in-store experiences online. The grocer, which operates two large, safari-themed stores in southern Ohio, told Grocery Dive that in March it had to shut down the majority of its in-store experiences, including its themed culinary festivals; store tours; beer, wine and cider tastings; live music; and karaoke. Jungle Jim's also operated movie theaters at both of its stores that have had to close down.
At this point, Jungle Jim’s doesn’t yet see a point of return for these experiences, Phill Adams, Jungle Jim’s director of development, told Grocery Dive in an email. He said the company's stores are currently operating under a Level 3 coronavirus alert on a four-level scale outlined by the Ohio Department of Health.
"We are optimistic that the pandemic will slow down soon, but the reality is, we may not open our venues this year," Adams said.
Jungle Jim’s says closing its famous in-store experiences hasn’t taken a toll on store traffic, and that the retailer has actually gained many new customers during the pandemic. Adams said Jungle Jim's was able to keep the shelves of its over 200,000-square-foot stores stocked thanks to its large back-of-house storage capacity.
“Traffic has been very high since the beginning of February,” said Adams. “Jungle Jim's has a lot of new and exciting things in and around it. But, when a pandemic hits, Jungle Jim's is a robust, well-stocked grocery store.”
Jungle Jim's doesn't offer online shopping, which many consumers have adopted during the pandemic. But its shoppers are used to visiting the grocers' stores, and may feel comforted by their large size and rigorous safety protocols. Not offering e-commerce may have also helped Jungle Jim's keep shelves stocked, since stores were fulfilling one demand stream instead of two.
Beyond the virtual cooking classes it is offering, Jungle Jim's sees other opportunities to engage its shoppers online. In April, it started broadcasting Facebook Live events where experts showed shoppers how to assemble a charcuterie board, offered a behind-the-scenes look at how the store was created, and hosted culinary question-and-answer sessions.
Taking the cooking school online gives Jungle Jim's shoppers who may have never tried the retailer's classes before the opportunity to do so. If they enjoy the class, they may be more inclined to attend in-store experiences once those resume. Jungle Jim's first online course, "Bakery Favorites," is currently sold out.
Although many other grocers have ramped up their virtual demonstrations and hosted online events in recent years, the pandemic has pushed them to expand and evolve these services even further. On Tuesday, Stop & Shop announced a new digital dietitian program that offers customers free webinars and educational resources. In April, Northgate Gonzalez Market launched a bilingual platform with DIY ideas and recipes, and Mariano’s launched a platform with online cooking classes, tastings and live music.