With just a 1.1% dividend yield, Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) probably doesn't jump out to income investors as a screaming opportunity. After all, there are plenty of great stocks to hold for the long haul with yields greater than 3%. But one aspect of Starbucks' dividend makes it worth a closer look: its growth potential. Indeed, it's quite possible -- and even likely -- that Starbucks' dividend could double in just four years.

Starbucks Sbux

Dividend history
One of the best ways to get a solid grasp of a company's dividend potential is to take a look at dividend history. 

Paying its first dividend in 2010, Starbucks dividend history is short. But it's also sweet.

The company has demonstrated that it cares about its shareholders who are looking for income by providing consistent, steady, and predictable dividend increases. Starbucks' has increased its dividend each and every year since the dividend was first initiated five years ago.

Even more, the company's quarterly dividend has increased sharply, rising from a split-adjusted $0.05 per share in 2010 to $0.16 today -- or $0.64 on an annual basis. This amounts to an average annualized dividend hike of 26%. And the dividend continues to grow at robust rates, increasing by 24% in 2014 and 23% in 2016.

Dividend potential 
Looking beyond Starbucks' dividend history, investors can get an idea of the company's potential for further increases in the future by looking over a few items on the its financial statements. As it turns out, it looks like Starbucks has considerable room for more dividend increases in the future.

Consider Starbucks' payout ratio, or its dividend as a percentage of earnings. At about 34%, it's clear Starbucks could choose to increase its dividend if it wanted to. Indeed, with a payout ratio this conservative, there's easily room for Starbucks to keep up its current rates of annual dividend increases.

And it's worth noting that Starbucks net income is actually on the rise. So, if net income growth continues growing as it has in the past, its payout ratio could remain around 34% -- even as dividends continue to rise.

Flipping over to Starbucks' cash flow statement, investors find more evidence of the conservatism in the company's current dividend payout. During the trailing twelve months, Starbucks free cash flow, or cash from operations less capital expenditures, was about $2.2 billion. Of this $2.2 billion, Starbucks paid out just $915 million in dividends.

Starbucks Sbux

Simply put, Starbucks looks poised to sustain meaningful dividend increases, going forward. Given its growing business, paired with its conservative payout ratio, Starbucks could likely increase its dividend by at least 20% a year for the next three to five years.

If Starbucks' dividends do increasing 20% annually, the company's quarterly dividend would more than double in just four years, growing from $0.16 ($0.64 annually) to $0.33 ($1.32 annually). In other words, investors who buy Starbucks today would have a 2.3% dividend yield on their cost basis -- not bad.

Sure, even a 2.3% yield in four years on today's cost basis may not immediately seem very compelling to investors looking for income. But as any experienced dividend investor knows, a good dividend stock needs to offer more than a high yield. The underlying investment should also have solid prospects. With Starbucks, investors are getting a decent dividend, growth potential, and the undisputed leader in coffee.

Daniel Sparks has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Starbucks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.