I remember someone once telling me that they'll know that Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) has achieved world domination if they are lost in the Sahara and find a Coke machine. Interestingly, in the 1980 movie The Gods Must Be Crazy, a Ju'hoansi Bushman finds a discarded Coke bottle in the middle of Africa. Perhaps that signaled the beginning of the end. Or perhaps it demonstrated that you can't keep a global brand from penetrating the innermost reaches of the Kalahari.

Regardless, I've been wondering if Coke truly has run its course as far as conquering the world, and if it's an investment I would make today. I held Coke from 1995 to 1998, enjoying a 100% investment return, before presciently selling out. The stock peaked at $88 in 1998, has bounced off of a low of $40 four different times since 2003, and sits at $56 today.

Initially, my premise for this article was that Coke doesn't have any further to go, it hasn't performed that well, and probably won't going forward. But I actually discovered exactly the opposite.

As far as the flagship brand goes, Coke literally reaches into the far corners of the globe at this point. When flipping through a nonfiction book about Africa a few weeks ago, I noticed that the author mentioned coaxing a warm Coke from a beat-up vending machine deep in the heart of Africa. The gods must be crazy, indeed.  

If brown sugar-water were all that Coke sold, then I'd stop writing here. However, the company owns and licenses more than 500 drink brands, and that's why I don't think investors can ever truly count Coke out. As long as people drink fluids, and Coke finds a way to brand even a small number of those fluids, the company will be around for a long, long time. And its brands don't even have to be sodas. After all, of the 54 billion beverage servings consumed worldwide every day, 1.6 billion bear a trademark owned by or licensed to Coca-Cola.

So that means there's still plenty of new markets to split with PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP), Dr Pepper Snapple Group (NYSE:DPS), and Hansen Natural (NASDAQ:HANS), or lots of share to take away from competitors such as Jones Soda (NASDAQ:JSDA) and Kraft (NYSE:KFT), depending on your perspective.

In Coke, I see a company whose earnings have steadily grown over the past decade, although this hasn't always been strictly a result of organic growth. It has $9 billion in cash and $11 billion in debt, although the debt is easily serviced by the company's nine-figure cash flow. Net profit margins are an astounding 20% over the past four quarters, which allows it to pay that sugary 2.9% dividend.

Coke isn't going anywhere, but its stock sure has. Its five-year performance has beaten the market handily: A 56% overall return vs. the S&P 500's -6%. So it seems that Coke remains well-positioned, and I think it would be a fine addition to a long-term portfolio.

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Rick Steier does not own shares in any company mentioned. Coca-Cola is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Hansen Natural is a Rule Breakers choice. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are Income Investor recommendations. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy pays its dividends in sugar water.