Sunset Foods bagger falls short in Las Vegas final

  • Jorge Mejia, an employee at Sunset Foods in Lake Forest, didn't make it out of the preliminaries Monday at the national bagging competition at Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

    Jorge Mejia, an employee at Sunset Foods in Lake Forest, didn't make it out of the preliminaries Monday at the national bagging competition at Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Courtesy of Stephanie Sandberg/Sunset Foods

 
 
Updated 2/29/2016 9:46 PM

Jorge Mejia remains a bagging champion in the eyes of his Sunset Foods colleagues, despite finishing out of the money Monday night in Las Vegas.

Mejia, who works at Sunset Foods in Lake Forest, didn't make it out of a preliminary round to reach the final five in the National Grocers Association Best Bagger contest hosted by Food Network's Duff Goldman at the Mirage Hotel and Casino. Mejia competed with 24 other baggers from across the country.

 

"It's a free trip and a fine time, you know?" an upbeat Mejia said in a brief interview soon after he was knocked out of the competition.

Mejia, 34, of Highland Park, added he hopes to return to the contest next year.

Contest judges took into account speed of bagging, proper bag-building technique, weight distribution in the sack, as well as style, attitude and appearance. The competition is meant to show how superior bagging skills are a part of customer service at food stores.

About 500 spectators were in the Mirage's grand ballroom for the action, where Candice Lastimado from Metropolitan Market in Seattle was crowned champion and received $10,000, said grocers association spokeswoman Laura Strange

Sunset Foods' vice president of human resources, Stephanie Sandberg, said she and six other employees accompanied Mejia to cheer for him in Las Vegas.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Sandberg said the Sunset contingent was proud of Mejia's performance.

"He looked so professional and he had his eye on the items," she said. "We couldn't believe he didn't make it to the final."

Five preliminary rounds were held, with the winners of each advancing to the final. Regardless of the outcome, Mejia will remain in Las Vegas for the convention with his Sunset colleagues through Wednesday,

When not on stage as he was Monday, Mejia sizes up the customers as they approach his checkout lane. His speed and accuracy are a result of knowing how he'll start packing the groceries well before they reach him.

Mejia's path to Las Vegas started with an internal competition between baggers from each Sunset store in Long Grove, Libertyville, Northbrook, Highland Park and Lake Forest.

After topping the other Sunset baggers, Mejia finished first in a field of seven competitors in the Illinois Food Retailers Association-Grocery Merchandising Association's Best Bagger challenge during the group's annual convention in October. That win vaulted him into the final at the Mirage.

Illinois stores started participating in the national bagger competition three years ago. The competition began in 1985.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.