With hundreds of companies having reported quarterly results, we're now in the heart of earnings season. The key to making smart investment decisions with stocks releasing their quarterly reports is to anticipate how they'll do before they announce results, leaving you fully prepared to respond quickly to whatever inevitable surprises arise. That way, you'll be less likely to make an uninformed, knee-jerk decision.

Let's turn to Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO). The beverage giant's 6.5% gain in 2012 roughly matched the returns of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI), but some worry about increasing headwinds against its core soft-drink business. Let's take an early look at what's been happening with Coca-Cola's over the past quarter and what we're likely to see in its quarterly report next Tuesday.

Stats on Coca-Cola

Analyst EPS Estimate


Change From Year-Ago EPS


Revenue Estimate

$11.55 billion

Change From Year-Ago Revenue


Earnings Beats in Past 4 Quarters


Source: Yahoo Finance.

Will Coca-Cola's earnings refresh its shareholders?
Analysts haven't budged during the past three months in their estimates for Coca-Cola's fourth-quarter earnings. But investors have been a bit more optimistic about its future prospects, pushing shares up more than 6% since early November.

The question on everyone's minds is how Coke can get in front of the anti-obesity campaigns that are gaining momentum around the country. With a well-publicized ban on large soft drinks in New York City and extensive lobbying to increase awareness of their potential health risks, it's crucial that Coke take steps to curb negative sentiment before it builds further. Moves like addressing obesity in its ads and joining PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) and Dr Pepper Snapple (NYSE:DPS) in voluntarily displaying calorie counts on vending machines are a start, but Coke needs to remain aggressive to keep its No. 1 brand value intact.

One answer may come from Coke's non-soda offerings, which have taken on increased importance lately. As consumers turn to juices, teas, waters, and sports and energy drinks, Coca-Cola's breadth of products in those segments has demonstrated the company's forward-thinking viewpoint.

As interesting as short-term results can be, investors should really focus on the company's long-term vision. With its "2020 Vision" plan seeking a doubling of revenue by the end of the decade, previously untapped and underpenetrated areas like the Middle East and the BRIC emerging markets represent Coke's best prospects for the growth it needs to sustain its long-term trajectory.

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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool recommends Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. The Motley Fool owns shares of PepsiCo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.