NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The term "untouchable" has several meanings on the stock market. There's the reference that describes companies that you should never touch, regardless of how cheap the stock looks.Then there are stocks that somehow never get cheap. It is as if they have become immune to criticism, shielded from the market's punishment regardless of how underwhelming their performances might have been. This would seem to describe Coca-Cola ( KO), whose business, by its own standards, no longer seems as bubbly. I'm not going to try to make excuses for Coca-Cola. But there are a lot of things at play here. Contrary to popular opinion, I don't believe the company's recent decline in revenue is the result of losing share to rival Pepsico ( PEP). The fact is, volume in the soft drink industry has been down across the board -- neither Pepsi or Nestle ( NSRGY) have been no exception. But the extent of Coca-Cola's volume struggles, which produced just 1% year-over-year growth, was a disappointment. This was 2% lower than Street expectations, which had already been revised lower more than a month prior to the report. However, as has been the case for quite some time, Coca-Cola's "flat" performance really didn't seem to matter. The stock, in fact, which has been up by as much as 15% for the year to date, went up by more than 2% in the days following the earnings report. The reason is simple. Unlike most companies, Coca-Cola has shown an uncanny ability to "struggle" and still grow market share at the same time.
Nevertheless, for the stock to work in the long term, Coco-Cola has to overcome the elephant in the room. It's no secret that obesity, which plagues close to 40% of Americans, have become a global concern. Some countries are more responsive than others. Many states have begun to prioritize ways to address (among other things) beverage consumption, which according to many experts is a key contributor to weight gain. "Liquid candy," as soda is often called, is no longer just a "fun" moniker. In some cases, it's become a life or death situation. Here, too, Coca-Cola is not alone in overcoming this challenge. I don't believe it's coincidence that for both Pepsi and Dr. Pepper Snapple ( DPS), sales volumes were also down. The question, though, is how much investors are willing to risk that Coca-Cola can still thrive in a more health-conscious market. Follow @saintssense This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.