Food retailing and wholesaling stocks surged in 2006, propelled by strong comparable-store sales at the largest chains, deal speculation at a few others and overall sentiment among investors that the industry‘s efforts to improve its positioning are gaining traction. More than half of the 27 stocks tracked by SN rose in double digits for the year. Among the top gainers: Spartan Stores, Grand Rapids, Mich., whose share price more than doubled after the acquisition of D&W Food Centers and strong performance metrics; Ingles Markets, Asheville, N.C., which was up nearly 100% on strong sales and earnings results; and Smart & Final, Los Angeles, which was up about 50% after the company launched a search for a possible buyer. Safeway was not far behind, and Kroger and Supervalu also were among the double-digit gainers. Down nearly 40% for the year was Whole Foods Markets, the Austin, Texas-based natural-foods retailer that saw a slowdown in its growth rate.