What happened

Shares of energy drink giant Monster Beverage (NASDAQ:MNST) gained 42.7% in 2017, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. With access to Coca-Cola's (NYSE:KO) incredible distribution networks around the world, the Monster brand is building momentum overseas.

So what

The global portion of Monster's partnership with Coca-Cola kicked in near the end of 2016, setting the stage for rapid overseas growth last year. International sales in the recently reported third quarter amounted to 29% of Monster's total revenue, up from 24% in the year-ago period. Examined under a different light, non-U.S. sales increased 36% year over year while the domestic top-line take rose just 8.7% higher.

A can of Monster Energy resting on a bed of ice.

Image source: Author.

Now what

The international growth opportunity is enormous. According to analysis by Morgan Stanley, Monster's market share runs neck and neck with archrival Red Bull in the U.S., but the latter's slice of the revenue pie abroad is more than four times the size of Monster's.

So investors should keep a close eye on Monster's progress in international markets. In particular, the company took its very first steps into the Chinese market in 2016, and CEO Rodney Sacks is pushing hard to grow Monster's footprint in the world's largest energy drink market.

Some analysts believe that the expected international growth has been priced into Monster's shares already, leaving little room for big short-term gains. That being said, investing guru Warren Buffett says that it's "far better to buy a wonderful business at a fair price than a fair business at a wonderful price."

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.