The 2014 Maine Best Bagger competition
The 2014 Maine Best Bagger competition
Photo: Portland Press Herald (Getty Images)

Update, February 27: Aaaaand we have a winner! Iowa’s winning streak has been broken by a Mainer: Nicole Cote, who works at a Hannaford in South Portland. WMUR of Manchester, New Hampshire, reported the news, but was more concerned that its own local representative, Alex Gamache of another Hannaford in Goffstown, didn’t make the final. Still, it’s a win for New England.

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“Grocery bagging is an art form, or more like a sport for those of us that want to get in and out of the grocery store quickly,” wrote Chio Acosta of WOKQ in Dover, New Hampshire. “It’s nice to know that the superior baggers are being recognized and that grocery bagging itself is being honored for the sport that it is.”

Original post, February 19: All hail the grocery bagger, the unheralded hero of the grocery store, the person who makes sure your eggs don’t get broken and your bananas don’t get smushed, the person who can snap a grocery bag with a smile and get you out of there in a timely fashion!

In many grocery stores these days, checkers have taken on the duties of baggers. But at the annual Best Bagger Championship, sponsored by the National Grocers Association, baggers still get their due. And this year’s competition is coming up next Monday in San Diego, a highlight of the annual NGA show.

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The competition began modestly back in 1983 when the American Paper Institute sponsored a bag-packing competition with a grand prize of $1,983. In 1987, the NGA took over. The competition, then known as the Texas–Oklahoma Checkout Shootout, had just two contestants (guess where they were from), but it was emceed by Terry Bradshaw. (The Texan won.) This year’s contest, sponsored by PepsiCo, has 22, the champions of their home states, all vying for a $10,000 cash prize. Their medium is reusable bags, which they must fill with between 30 and 38 common grocery items. According to the official competition handbook, “Contestants are judged by speed of bagging, proper bag-building technique, weight distribution, in the bag, as well as style, attitude, and appearance.”

(The handbook also contains a description of proper bagging technique for those who are curious or for those who aren’t lucky enough to shop at a grocery store with an expert bagger on hand.)

It appears, sadly, that the only way to watch the Best Bagger Championship is live in San Diego. The competition has two hashtags, though—#BestBagger and #NGAShow20—so you can cheer on your state champ from afar. Iowans have won the past two years in a row. Will this year be a three-peat?

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A correction: The Best Bagger Championship will be streaming on the NGA’s Facebook page starting at 5 p.m. PST.

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.

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