Anyone who has accidentally smashed a loaf of bread or crushed a dozen eggs under a soup can at the supermarket self-checkout line knows that bagging groceries can be a frustrating organizational puzzle.
"There's an art to it," admits 20-year-old Alexa Sobsey of Davis, California, who in late February was crowned the 2022 Best Bagger Champion by the National Grocers Association, a Washington, D.C.-based organization representing independent community grocery stores across the country. "It's not just throwing a bunch of groceries in a bag and being the fastest. It's not as easy as it looks."
Sobsey's journey to the championship began in August 2018, on her first day of work at Nugget Markets in West Sacramento.
"My first day at the store was our in-store bagging competitions," says Sobsey, who also works in the market's floral department. "I didn't win. Not even close. I was not very good when I first started, but I loved how excited everyone was. I fed off the energy."
"Having them there to come and practice with me was honestly the biggest part of [my success]," she says. "I don't think I would have been able to build my skill like that just by myself."
Her dedication finally paid off on her third trip to the national competition, held Feb. 28 in Las Vegas, when Sobsey bested competitors from independent grocers across nine states to win the NGA's Best Bagger Championship and a $10,000 prize.
Contestants were judged on speed, "bag-building" technique, weight distribution between bags, style, attitude and appearance.
"They threw some curveballs at us," says Sobsey, who says she trained primarily with shelf-stable items and wasn't expecting some of the oddly shaped refrigerated items she ended up bagging. "Jars of whipped cream, Naked smoothies, plastic hummus containers — I totally wasn't ready for that one!"
Eric Stille, President and CEO of Nugget Market, Inc., applauds Sobsey for representing the family-owned Sacramento-based chain, which was named one of PEOPLE's 100 Companies That Care in 2021.
"Words can't express how proud we are of Alexa," Stille says. "She set a goal, went after it heart, body and soul, and came out on top. We are so fortunate to have her in our Nugget Markets family, and we're truly inspired by her accomplishment."
Sobsey plans to put some of her prize money in savings, but she's also considering a new tattoo to commemorate the big win.
"Maybe a tiny little grocery bag with some produce and stuff sticking out the top," she says.