Minnesota’s best grocery bagger to compete for national title

Minnesota's grocery bagging king is heading to Las Vegas to try and earn the national title. 

For some people, bagging groceries is a chore, but one Twin Cities grocery store employee treats it like an art form. 

Justin Kizilos is the best grocery bagger in the state of Minnesota and he said the key is focus. 

For the past three-and-a-half years, Kizilos has worked at Kowalski’s Market. This year, he earned the distinction of being the best at what he does in Minnesota. 

"It’s a really weird experience," he said. "I’ve never been the best at something and it really hasn’t settled in yet." 

Kizilos says it may seem like he grabs items at random to pack customers’ grocery bags, but there is actually a method to his madness. He equates it to a video game. 

"It’s like a 3-D game of tetris," he said. 

In addition to making sure heavy objects are on the bottom, boxes are on the sides, glass in the middle and crushables are on the top, the 25-year-old says he handles every customer’s food with care. 

That care helped him win a bag-off to represent the grocery store chain at the MN Grocer’s Association Best Bagger Competition last August, where he took first place. 

He says, even though he wasn’t as fast as some of the other contestants, his technique and distributing the weight evenly between two reusable bags won him $500 and a trophy to take home. 

"The target time was 53 seconds. I was done in 1:06. You are losing lots of points for that," he said. 

When they announced his name, however, he thought there had to be another Justin. 

"I didn’t believe it honestly," he said. 

Kizilos will head to Las Vegas in September to compete for the national title and a chance at $10,000. 

When it comes to being the best, Kizilos says it’s in the bag. 

"Being a bagger at a grocery store isn’t the most glorious job, right? But to have something you can have fun with it…I want to show I take pride in my work," he said.