Coca-Cola (KO 0.95%) has a few big questions to answer for investors in late July. The beverage titan's stock has outperformed the market in 2022 thanks to perceptions that its business will be relatively stable through any economic downturn. Investors are excited about prospects for increasing cash returns, too, through dividends and stock buyback spending.

Let's take a look at how Coke might cement its position as an attractive stock for 2022 through a few key metrics in its upcoming earnings report slated for July 26.

1. Organic sales

The main headline number will be revenue, which most investors expect to see jump by 13% to $10.5 billion. For context, Coke's prior sales boost, in Q1, was 16%.

That revenue figure includes currency exchange swings and is heavily impacted by pandemic-related shifts in consumer spending. That's why investors will want to follow organic sales for a clearer picture of growth. Coke posted an 18% increase on that measure last quarter.

Rival PepsiCo (PEP 0.36%) reported a 9% boost in its core U.S. beverage business in mid-July, and Coke is likely to post a bigger bounce for its Q2. That gain is partly due to Coke's exposure to on-the-go beverage sales at places like sporting events, concerts, and restaurants. It should also reflect rising market share, consistent with the good news that shareholders have seen in the last few earnings reports.

2. Cost pressures

Coke's dominant market position doesn't completely shield it from cost pressures. The company likely faced higher expenses for transportation, key inputs like aluminum and glass, and wages. Consumers might balk at paying higher prices that reflect these increased costs, and that's why profitability is such a critical metric to watch right now.

KO Operating Margin (TTM) Chart

KO Operating Margin (TTM) data by YCharts.

Coke's operating margin has been climbing toward new highs even as PepsiCo's has fallen. That factor is likely the main reason why the stock is trouncing the market so far in 2022 and beating rival consumer staples companies, too.

Investors will want to see more evidence of Coke's unusually high profit strength this week.

3. New outlook

Earlier this month, Pepsi raised its sales outlook, and investors are hoping for a similar upgrade from Coca-Cola. Heading into the report, executives are projecting organic sales gains of between 7% and 8%. But PepsiCo hiked its forecast from 8% to 10%, and Coke might make a similar shift if demand trends remained strong into early July.

In any case, investors are likely to see strong cash returns while holding this dividend stock. Coke has increased its dividend payment for over 60 years. That impressive streak isn't likely to end, even if economic growth trends slow or another recession hits. That's a key reason for investors to like this stock, regardless of whether the upcoming earnings report is another blockbuster.