Sergeant Bluff student is Iowa's top supermarket sacker

Posted at 6:39 PM, Sep 03, 2022

SERGEANT BLUFF, Iowa (AP) — The best way to bag groceries is to create walls with boxes while grouping similar items so they all go together. That is, unless there are bottles, which may break when are placed side-by-side.

These are the recommendations of Nolan McGregor -- and he should know.

The 20-year-old Sergeant Bluff Fareway employee and Western Iowa Tech student scored a first-place finish at the Iowa Grocery Industry Association’s 35th annual Iowa Best Bagger competition, held Aug. 12 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

“The Iowa Best Bagger Contest spotlights talented Iowans and the grocery industry in a very positive way,” Iowa Grocery Industry Association president Michelle Hurd said. “Grocery baggers play an important role when it comes to creating a positive shopping experience for customers.”

Beating out 14 other individuals in a contest that involved speed, item arrangement, weight distribution and overall appearance, McGregor earned himself a trophy, a $500 cash prize and the title of “Iowa’s Best Bagger.”

More important, he will now be able to compete at the National Best Bagger competition in Las Vegas in February 2023.

This is remarkable for McGregor, who began working at Fareway at age 14 when his mother told him he needed to find a job.

“I’ve been at Fareway through my high school years at Sergeant Bluff-Luton and, now, my college years at Western Iowa Tech Community College,” he told the Sioux City Journal.

Set to graduate in December with a business management degree, McGregor wants to continue working at Fareway at the corporate level.

“I figure the grocery industry is pretty stable,” he explained. “After all, everyone has to eat.”

No two days are ever the same in a grocery store.

“You never know if you’ll be working on a freezer or checking people out in the express lane,” McGregor said. “A person wears a lot of hats around here.”

Indeed, he said cooperation can go a long way.

“A cashier and a bagger will often work as part of a team,” McGregor explained. “A cashier will group things that need to be together while a bagger puts them into the appropriate bags.”

A good rule of thumb is that plastic bags allow a bagger to go faster while paper sacks allow him to be neater. Reusable bags are an excellent middle-of-the-road option.

Even though he entered the Iowa Best Bagger contest, McGregor never thought of winning.

“Some of the other contestants were timing themselves and practicing before the night before,” he said. “I didn’t do any of that.”

Instead, McGregor relied on instinct as well as on the knowledge he had gained over the past six years.

“A good bagger is always thinking,” he said. “He’ll see what’s coming his way and plans accordingly.”

So, will McGregor be practicing prior to his appearance at next year’s National Best Bagger competition?

“I don’t know,” he said modestly. “I will be representing the entire state of Iowa. Maybe I should be taking the contest a bit more seriously.”

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