Hy-Vee Associate Wins 2021 NGA Best Bagger Championship

Ben Miller earns top honors over 9 other contestants
Bridget Goldschmidt
Managing Editor
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Hy-Vee Associate Wins 2021 NGA Best Bagger Championship Ben Miller
L to R: Mike Stigers, NGA chair; Kent Montgomery, PepsiCo; Christopher Yemma, PepsiCo, Ben Miller, Hy-Vee; and Greg Ferrara, NGA president and CEO.

Ben Miller, an associate at Midwestern grocer Hy-Vee Inc., beat out nine other grocery baggers in the Best Bagger Championship, sponsored by PepsiCo, on Sept. 20 during The NGA Show at the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Now in its 35th year, the championship brings together the best grocery baggers from across the United States for a chance to compete for a grand prize of $10,000. Contestants are judged on bagging speed, technique, weight distribution in the bag and style.

“Each year during The NGA Show, we host the Best Bagger Championship, a unique event that highlights the important customer service skill of bagging in a fun atmosphere, with friends and family of the baggers joining to cheer on these supermarket superheroes,”  said Greg Ferrara, president and CEO of Arlington, Va.-based National Grocers Association (NGA), which represents the independent sector of the grocery industry. “We also livestreamed on NGA’s Facebook page for those who could not make it. Over the past year, America’s grocers have been on the front lines, continuing to serve their communities. I see this event not only as a celebration of our baggers, but our entire industry. I congratulate Ben Miller and look forward to seeing another group of baggers compete during the 2022 NGA Show at Caesar’s Forum in just a few months.”

Justin Kizilos, from Woodbury, Minn.-based Kowalski’s Market, came in second, winning a $5,000 cash prize. The other finalists were Fenging Liu, of Dayton, Ohio-based Dorothy Lane Market; Kennedy Kartchner, of West Valley City, Utah-based Harmons Grocery; and Alexa Sobsey, of Woodland, Calif.-based Nugget Markets

This year’s contest included an executive round pitting independent grocers’ c-suite leaders against one other. The winner was Pamela Coy, owner of  Viking Village Markets, with locations in Reedsburg and Baraboo, Wis., and the 2021 WGA Woman of the Year, who triumphed over NGA Chairman Mike Stigers, CEO of Stillwater, Minn.-based Cub Foods; Tim Metcalfe, of Madison, Wis.-based Metcalfe’s Market; Kent Montgomery and Christopher Yemma, of Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo, which sponsored the competition; and Ferrara himself.

Employee-owned Hy-Vee has a team of 86,000 employees and operates more than 280 retail stores across eight Midwestern states, with sales of $11 billion annually. The West Des Moines, Iowa-based company is No. 34 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. Cub Foods is a division of Providence, R.I.-based United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI), the largest publicly traded grocery distributor in America and No. 47 on The PG 100. 

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