NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Albertsons rates attention from investors for its impending initial public offering. It's the second-largest supermarket chain in the country and will be the second-biggest IPO-- about $2 billion -- of the year. The offering has priced at $23 to $26 a share and the company will trade under the ticker symbol ABS.
But the grocery chain to watch and consider for investing is the supermarket sector's leader.
Kroger (KR - Get Report) dwarfs Albertsons in sales, earnings and market capitalization, among other financial measures. Albertsons is actually losing money. When looking at Kroger where it counts for investors -- stock return -- it has easily beaten all the major publicly traded grocers and the S&P 500 index for years. Kroger has outperformed the S&P 241% to 72% since 2010.
To be sure, Kroger's shares have had, like many stocks, some rough moments. Shares, which closed Wednesday at $37.52, are off close to 2% over the past six months, compared with the S&P's 3.9% decline for that period.
Kroger is in an industry with the slimmest of margins owing to its commodities-like business and incredible competitive pressure from all directions, starting with giant retailers Wal-Mart (WMT - Get Report) and Costco (COST - Get Report) , which now sell more groceries than Kroger does.
None of this appears to shake up Kroger. It has its own initiatives, including acquisitions such as Harris Teeter last year and the ongoing program of diversifying into other retail categories such as adding gas stations and convenience and jewelry stores to its Kroger sites.
Analysts are standing by Kroger. For the past three months the 13 analysts tracked by Zacks Investment Research have given it an unwavering overall buy rating, with no changes in the recommendations given by the analysts (i.e. seven strong buys, one buy, five holds each month).
Nor is that likely to change. According to Citigroup analyst Alvin Concepcion, "Kroger has shown a strong ability to operate well in this current environment."
Kroger also has a significant advantage now over its biggest rivals in that it does its business in the U.S. and isn't exposed to weaker world economies, unlike Wal-Mart and Costco.
Nor is the stock price particularly expensive by today's standards. The stock sells at a price to earnings multiple of 19, just above the current average of 18 for the S&P. That's just one more thing for investors to consider when cruising down the aisle wondering about what they should buy.