Mobile payments and its loyalty program are both part of Starbucks' growth strategy. Source: Starbucks.

Starbucks(NASDAQ:SBUX) has been one of the great investment stories in recent memory. Since 2000 alone, revenue has grown more than 700%, while earnings per share has increased in excess of 1,700%. The total return for shareholders in that time? A market-crushing 1,110%, including dividends. 

Today, the company's 21,000 stores generate annual sales of almost $16.5 billion. With a market cap of nearly $61 billion, can Starbucks remain a growth company? Management is convinced of it and gave investors an overview of its strategy in December. Reaching its goal of close to $30 billion in annual sales in the next five years and doubling operating income will take a lot of work, along with some serious execution. 

With the first quarter's earnings announcement scheduled for Thursday, what should investors look for? Let's explore the things that matter the most. 

Growing the dayparts 
It should come as no surprise that Starbucks does more than half of its business in the morning, given its products and historical focus:

Source: Starbucks presentation. 

However, as the table above shows, morning sales only account for 15% of the total U.S. spending in quick-service restaurants. Factor in that Americans spend just as much eating out as they do eating at home now, and Starbucks has an opportunity to grow sales. 

Food sales are already having a positive impact on store sales in all dayparts. Chief Operating Officer Troy Alstead -- who is preparing to go on "unpaid leave" after 23 years at the company -- said on the previous earnings call that food sales in the U.S. contributed two points to same-store sales growth, and grew at a double-digit rate as a category. While this category isn't broken out specifically in company earnings releases, look for additional details from management in the earnings release and the earnings call. How much is the company counting on growing its dayparts? By 2019, food sales and Starbucks Evenings are expected to generate an incremental $3 billion in annual sales -- worth about 18% of current total revenue. 

Food sales -- throughout the day -- are central to the growth story. Source: Starbucks presentation.

Growing the store base 
While The Onion satirically reported that a Starbucks was opening inside another Starbucks, the company actually has a tremendous amount of room to grow the store base. In the last fiscal year, some 1,600 net new stores opened, with 70% being international locations. This year, 1,650 net new stores is the target, 1,000 of them outside of the Americas. China and the Asia-Pacific will get the largest share with 850 new stores. 

The company plans to double its store count in China over the next five years to 3,000 locations and is aggressively investing in Japan, following last year's acquisition of Starbucks Japan. 

Starbucks in Beijing, China. Source: Starbucks presentation.

Today, the China/Asia-Pacific segment is about 10% the size of the Americas segment, but it is growing sales at a 20% clip. Considering that this is the most populous place on Earth, and home to the fastest-growing middle-class population, Starbucks must succeed in the region if it has any chance to reach the growth targets set for 2019. Keep an eye on the region's performance -- it's small today, but could be the most important sector for the company in another decade. 

Consumer packaged goods and tea
Starbucks' consumer packaged goods, or CPG, business -- like the Starbucks Coffee you might buy in Costco -- generated $986 million in sales last year and has grown at a 23% annual clip since 2011. The international market here again offers significant opportunity for sales. Last year, only 17% of CPG sales came outside the U.S., while only about 15% of global packaged coffee sales happen here. In short, the percentages -- as a reflection of demand in the market -- are flipped. 

Furthermore, the global tea market is more than $100 billion, making it larger than the coffee market. The company is building on its acquisition of Teavana. Teavana sales represent almost 9% of total sales now, but they are likely to accelerate as Starbucks more fully integrates the products into Starbucks stores, expands the number of Teavana locations and tea bars, and develops ready-to-drink packaged teas in retail channels. 

Both of these product segments will play important roles in the domestic and international growth stories.

Looking ahead 
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has set a very high bar of growth for the next five years, and many things must go right for it to all play out as planned. What does this all have to do with this quarter's earnings preview? It's a reminder that the results this quarter -- whether a blowout, a miss, or in line with whatever Wall Street expects -- are just three months' worth of results. Keep an eye on the trends, and think about how they affect the bigger picture. Starbucks won't turn into a great or terrible investment solely based on what we learn this week. Stay tuned for more when earnings are released on Thursday.