Kroger Co. -- parent of Colorado's King Soopers and City Market chains -- said it broke its industry-leading streak of 52 consecutive quarters of comparable-store sales growth when it posted fourth-quarter earnings this morning.

Cincinnati-based Kroger (NYSE: KR), the nation’s largest operator of traditional supermarkets, reported same-store sales excluding fuel fell 0.7 percent from the previous quarter. That’s the measure Kroger and analysts use to show how much sales are fluctuating at stores that remained open and haven’t dramatically changed over the prior year.

Kroger, like virtually all grocers, has struggled in recent quarters as food price deflation has slashed sales growth and cut into profits. It barely eked out a 0.1 percent same-store sales gain in the third quarter to extend its industry-leading sales streak to 13 full years.

Kroger’s same-store sales did rise 1 percent for the full fiscal year.

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