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Who’s the best bagger of them all?

Published 10:54pm Friday, February 11, 2011

Martin’s Super Markets will sponsor two state entrants to the National Grocers Association (NGA)-sponsored Best Bagger championship competition, to be held at Las Vegas’ Mirage Hotel on Monday.

Martin’s David Smith will represent the state of Indiana, while Mina Eskander will represent the state of Michigan. Smith, 31, has been employed by Martin’s for 14 years, currently at the Granger store located at 12850 State Road 23. Eight-year employee Eskander, age 25, is based at the Niles Martin’s, located at 720 South 11th St.

This will be both Smith and Eskander’s first opportunities to compete for the national title. Smith has served as a corporate coach for previous Martin’s entrants to the national competition.

The NGA sanctions nationwide state Bag Off contests on behalf of its membership, with a national championship awarded each year at its annual convention in Las Vegas. Baggers, or service clerks as they are titled, are supermarket employees whose primary responsibility is to efficiently, safely and accurately bag grocery items for customers at the checkout.

Winners of state finals are eligible to compete at the national Best Bagger “Bag Off” during the NGA’s annual national convention. The current national Best Bagger is Osceola’s Kyle Perry, a college student and part-time employee at the same Martin’s store as Smith. Perry’s February 2010 win earned him $10,000 cash, numerous prizes and a guest appearance on “Late Night with David Letterman.”

“Bagging groceries is an art,” according to Martin’s training coordinator, Paulette Collins. “At Martin’s, we emphasize to both beginning and seasoned service clerks that a stable, categorized and safely organized bag is one way our customers experience our superior commitment to service. And by training for and competing in ‘Bag Off’ contests, we’re highlighting to our shoppers and employees alike that attention to detail is an ongoing process at Martin’s.”

Collins and Martin’s Customer Service Manager Maria Werder will accompany both contestants to the competition. Werder has competed and placed at the national competition herself, most recently in 2007.

The NGA is the national trade association representing the retail and wholesale grocers that comprise the independent sector of the food distribution industry.

Martin’s Super Markets was founded in 1947 and currently has 21 stores in South Bend, Mishawaka, Granger, Elkhart, Goshen, Plymouth, Nappanee, Logansport and Warsaw, Ind., and Niles, Stevensville and St. Joseph, Mich.

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