A Q&A with the State’s Prize-winning Grocery Bagger, Kowalski’s Caleb Meyer

The Minnesota Grocers Association holds its Best Bagger Contest every year. This August was the 29th annual, and the winner was Mahtomedi High School senior Caleb Meyer, who grocers at the Oak Park Heights, Minn., Kowalski’s. We spoke to him to learn more about.
How long have you worked at Kowalski’s?
Two and a half years.

What’s your favorite part about working at Kowalski’s?
The people there. Every night, I have at least a couple of people that I enjoy working with. Being able to build that relationship in the workplace is a good thing to have.

What kind of skills are needed to be the best bagger?
It’s similar to spatial awareness. In your mind, you understand what you can bag, and then you kind of choose the items accordingly.

What was your experience at the Best Bagger Contest?
It was quite something. For it to be held at the Mall of the America (MOA), it was fun. It was interesting to see how many people were interested in bagging in Minnesota.

What were some of the areas they judged you on?
Speed was the primary one. Then there was distribution of weight between the two bags. You also have proper bagging technique. All the cans standing up, along with boxes standing up. Bags aren’t bulging; bags are organized.

What was going through your head when you won?
I was excited. Our store manager was there, so he was pretty excited as well. I had a couple of friends and relatives that were there. It was just a fun moment to share with them.

What did you do with the $500 you won?
It is currently being saved.

Where are you keeping the crystal trophy you won?
In my family’s office.

How did your co-workers and managers help you prepare?
We practiced for a couple of hours a couple days before the competition. We also practiced 30 minutes before the competition a few times in the food court at the MOA.

What were some of things you had to bag?
There were a fair amount of cans. There were chips. There was a box of grape juice. Pringles. There was PAM oil.

Did you do anything afterwards to celebrate?
We all went and splurged at the MOA food court.

How have things changed at Kowalski’s since winning?
Generally, they try and introduce me to corporate people when they do walk-throughs. So there’s more recognition from the company.

What do you like to do in your spare time outside of work and school?
I like to video-edit. Generally, just kind of fun videos that I do with my friends with special effects.

How do you balance school and work?
It was definitely difficult at first. I’ve gotten used to it. I try to keep it down to two nights a week on the weekdays, so I can get my homework done for the next school day.

Are you in any extracurriculars at school?
This year, I’m part of Rocket Team. We design a rocket, then we’re supposed to reach a certain height, as well as come down in a certain amount of time.

Any plans for the future?
I’m planning on going to college. The schools that I’ve been accepted to are primarily my safe schools, currently. So once the more competitive schools get back to me, I’ll make a decision. I want to go into engineering.

On February 12, Caleb Meyer represented Minnesota in the National Grocers Association Best Bagger Championship in Las Vegas. Learn more at kowalskis.com.