ELGIN, Ill. ( TheStreet) -- Investors are often blinded by a cool or innovative product and incorrectly figure the maker's stock must be a sure thing.However, there's a long and storied history of mind-blowing products and great investments that don't necessarily go hand in hand. Searching for solid investments shouldn't limit investors to tech, biotech or other fast-growth companies -- great investments can come from any industry. Take, for example, Elgin, Ill.-based Middleby ( MIDD), which produces commercial food-service equipment. Many would incorrectly assume that since the industry is a bit sleepy, the stock probably drifts lazily with no real gains to speak of. However, Middleby has more than doubled in the past year, outpacing every major index in the process. The basis for the big increase wasn't a product breakthrough. The company hasn't developed a way to toast a slice of bread faster or a way to make a French fry more delicious. It has simply produced solid results on strong fundamentals. With a return on equity of 22.5% and a profit margin of 9.4%, Middleby is producing strong returns for its shareholders. Revenue is expected by analysts to grow 5.8% in 2010, with earnings expected to increase by nearly 10%, indicating the strong performance is likely to continue. Despite the fast run-up in value over the past year, the stock is still cheap in terms of its price-to-earnings ratio. A forward ratio of just 12.2 is much lower than the industry average, and a PEG ratio 0.67 shows the shares are inexpensive based on the company's growth potential.
While the industry may not be sexy and there will never be a blockbuster product that powers the company into the stratosphere, Middleby has extremely strong performance and is at a valuation that could lead to another year of outsized gains in 2010. TheStreet.com Ratings gives Middleby a "buy" recommendation. Rather than jumping into the latest hot and overvalued stock, consider Middleby as an attractively priced, lesser-known bet. -- Reported by David MacDougall in Boston.