Hy-Vee’s Tyler Miller Wins Iowa’s Best Bagger Title

Tyler Miller, who works for Hy-Vee in West Des Moines, finished first in the Iowa Best Bagger contest Aug. 8, claiming Iowa’s Best Bagger title, a trophy, a $500 cash prize and a trip to Las Vegas.

“Tyler completed three heats with great speed but what really clinched the competition was the weight distribution between the grocery bags,” said Michelle Hurd, president of the Iowa Grocery Industry Association (IGIA), which hosts the event annually at the Iowa State Fair. “His grocery bags had good composition and were nearly equal every time. Bagging groceries is an important point of contact with customers and can be a factor in whether a customer returns to the store.”

Out of the three heats, Miller’s greatest weight distribution difference between bags was only eight ounces, which meant he did not receive any deductions.

Tyler Miller
Tyler Miller

Miller, 27, who grew up in Urbandale and currently lives in Beaverdale, will go on to represent Iowa at the 2015 National Grocers Association Best Bagger Contest in Las Vegas in February, and has a chance to win an additional $10,000. With 12 years of grocery bagging experience, Miller will attempt to be the sixth person from Iowa to win a national title and the first since 2000. The five previous national winners from Iowa were Fareway employees. Miller would be the first from Hy-Vee.

“This feels pretty awesome. I’ve been at it for a couple of years now so it was nice to hear my name called first this year,” Miller said about winning. “I’m excited to go to Vegas. I’ve never been there before. Regardless of whether I win or not, it will be an honor to represent the state of Iowa at the national event.”

Miller began his career in the grocery industry when he was 15, working as a bagger in the Urbandale store. He also worked at the Johnston store for three years, the Valley West store for five years and the Hy-Vee store on S. 51st Street in West Des Moines for the past three years.

Before making it to the Iowa Best Bagger competition, Miller competed in Hy-Vee’s internal qualifying competition. The top eight finishers qualified to compete for Hy-Vee at the State Fair.

Placing second in the Iowa Best Bagger competition was David Nelson, 22, of the Cedar Falls Fareway. He was awarded $250. Tim Hamman, who works at the Hy-Vee in Windsor Heights, placed third and received $150. Ben O’Neal, who works at Fareway in Boone, and Timothy Barton, who works at the Fareway in Fort Dodge, tied for fourth place and each received $100.

Eighteen baggers took part in the 2014 event, which celebrated its 27th year at the Iowa State Fair. Contestants bagged identical grocery orders consisting of approximately 40 commonly purchased items into three plastic grocery bags. They were scored and ranked primarily on speed and weight distribution among bags, but proper item arrangement also was taken into account.

Reusable bags were incorporated in the finals again in the Iowa Best Bagger Contest for the sixth year. The finals consist of two heats—one with plastic bags and one with reusable bags.

Members of the crowd had a chance to win one of several gift cards for answering grocery industry trivia questions.

Eddie Hatfield, morning radio show host on KJJY 92.5; Jackie Schmillen, host of the Great Day Morning Show on KCWI-23; and ABC 5 Sports Director Dave Zawilinski as well as 2013 Iowa Best Bagger Champion Matt Munstermann (Hy-Vee, Altoona) competed in the Celebrity Best Bagger competition this year. Zawalinski emerged victorious and will donate the $250 prize to his chosen charity, The Make-A-Wish Foundation. The donation was made possible by Fareway Stores Inc.

Companies sponsoring the 2014 Iowa Best Bagger Contest include the IGIA, Coca-Cola and Hilex Poly. Prize sponsors include Hiland Dairy, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Cookies Food Products and Pepsi. All non-perishable food items used in the competition were donated to the Food Bank of Iowa in Des Moines.

In the feature photo at top: The 2014 Iowa Best Bagger award winners from the Iowa Best Bagger competition Aug. 8 at the Iowa State Fair are, from left, Tim Hamman, Hy-Vee, Windsor Heights, third place, $150 prize; Tyler Miller, Hy-Vee, West Des Moines, first place, $500; Ben O’Neal, Fareway, Boone, and Timothy Barton, Fareway, Fort Dodge, tied for fourth place, $100 each; and David Nelson, Fareway, Cedar Falls, second place, $250.

National Best Bagger Champions from Iowa

2000: Mike Mechura (Fareway Stores – Boone, Iowa)
1997: Allen Weimerskirch (Fareway Stores – Creston, Iowa)
1996: Mike Dahm (Fareway Stores – New Hampton, Iowa)
1994: Jeff Stearns (Fareway Stores – Boone, Iowa)
1987: Paul Heffernan (Fareway Stores – Manchester, Iowa)
1986: Paul Heffernan (Fareway Stores – Manchester, Iowa)

Iowa Best Bagger Champions (Since 1995)
2014: Tyler Miller (Hy-Vee, West Des Moines)
2013: Matthew Munstermann (Hy-Vee, Altoona)
2012: Tim Hannan (Fareway Stores, Des Moines)
2011: Jacob Laursen (Fareway Stores, Cresco, Iowa)
2010: Jeremy Mescher (Fareway Stores – Sheldon, Iowa)
2009: David Kistenmacher (Fareway Stores – Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
2008: Brian Beneke (Fareway Stores – Cresco, Iowa)
2007: Aric Reicks (Fareway Stores – Sioux City, Iowa)
2006: Brenda Wygle (Fareway Stores – New Hampton, Iowa)
2005: Dan Klinkenberg (Fareway Stores – Eagle Grove, Iowa)
2004: Tony Haisman (Fareway Stores – Waterloo, Iowa)
2003: Kevin McCormick (Fareway Stores – Ottumwa, Iowa)
2002: Jim Westphalen (Fareway Stores – Clinton, Iowa)
2001: Jeff Kessler (Hy-Vee – Iowa City, Iowa)
2000: Keith Voss (Fareway Stores – Vinton, Iowa)
1999: Mike Mechura (Fareway Stores – Boone, Iowa)
1998: Steve Tielbur (Fareway Stores – Boone, Iowa)
1997: Roger Wirtz (Fareway Stores – Cherokee, Iowa)
1996: Allen Weimerskirch (Fareway Stores – Creston, Iowa)
1995: Mike Dahm (Fareway Stores – New Hampton, Iowa)

About The Author

A 10-year employee of The Shelby Report who writes for and about food. In previous lives, she worked at a police department in Texas and an amusement park in Arkansas. She also was a newspaper publisher for more than a decade. Not sure which of those qualified her for this job.