Have you had a Coke recently? What about a Sprite or a Fuze tea? With 200 brands worldwide, including more than 800 drink varieties in the U.S. alone, Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) is one of the most recognized drink companies in the world. And it can offer investors a lot more than just thirst relief on a summer day. Let's take a look at why it's a solid long-term stock for your retirement portfolio.

Almost essential

Coke is a classic example of a cash cow, one that continuously supplies as it gets milked.

For the first quarter of 2020, which ended March 27, the company saw a 1% net revenue decrease with flat organic revenue. Comparable currency-neutral operating income increased 11%, and earnings per share grew 65% to $0.64. Those are pretty solid numbers in the middle of a pandemic during which people aren't getting drinks at entertainment venues and are carefully watching their budgets. Before COVID-19 hit, Coca-Cola had strong and consistent growth at its 4% to 6% goals, and the company met those goals over 11 straight quarters.

Four hands raise glasses of cola in a toast.

Image source: Getty Images.

A very flexible operating model

Even Coke is suffering in the current COVID-19 pandemic. But the company has numerous ways to serve its customers and is working on building up its distribution away from closed revenue streams -- such as theaters and stadiums -- and into running revenue streams like supermarkets and e-commerce.

Coke is working to simplify the supply chain to get products to market faster and bringing in more core products that customers who are purchasing essentials are looking to buy. It's also producing more bulk packages so customers who are staying at home can stock up.

It's also focusing on e-commerce, packaging products in a way that suits individual deliveries, and investing in improved digital capabilities.

CEO James Quincey said: "A culture of agility is key. We've never been better positioned than we are today to manage through this situation and come out even stronger."

It has a huge stash of cash available for new initiatives, but that comes in handy during times like the current COVID-19 pandemic. With $15 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments, as well as $9 billion in lines of credit, Coke is well cushioned against debt.

Still growing

As hard as it might be to believe, Coke still has ample room for expansion. The company still sees substantial growth opportunities, in which it believes it has a competitive advantage due to its wide range of brands in virtually every cold beverage segment backed up by what it touts as "an unparalleled distribution system, innovative equipment platforms and diverse customer base."

Its cash coffers also give it the ability to experiment with new ways to serve up its beverages, including new smaller packages that can grab greater share in existing markets. It's also launching new types of drinks, including cold brews and keto-friendly beverages.

Coca-Cola has one of the most recognizable symbols in retail and a high level of brand engagement that it has refined over many decades, continuing to engage with a multigenerational cohort of customers.

It engages in what it calls "smart marketing," which involves different and vibrant marketing approaches in different regions, such as Star Wars-themed bottles in Singapore that turn labels into virtual light sabers when touched and a Coke music studio in India. "We're making a clear shift, in simplest terms, from interruptions to experiences through many different vehicles," Quincey said.

In other words, Coca-Cola may not be the hottest growth stock, but with a continued eye on innovation and increasing market share, it will maintain steady growth rates. This makes it a sound and secure choice for a retirement portfolio.

A great dividend

Finally, Coca-Cola offers a steady dividend that it increased for the 58th consecutive year in March 2020. At the stock's current price, it's giving a 3.6% yield. Dividend stocks are a good choice for a retirement portfolio because they offer some sense of security and because of the ability to reinvest them in DRIPs (dividend reinvestment plans).

Coca-Cola has delivered value for shareholders over time and has all of the factors in its favor to keep on giving.