Americans just aren’t guzzling carbonated drinks as much as they used to. The latest evidence of this trend emerged Thursday when Coca-Cola Co. announced it is laying off as many as 1,800 corporate staffers. The cuts, most of which will come from the company’s Atlanta headquarters, represent a significant paring down of Coca- Cola’s 13,000-strong leadership corps.

The world’s largest beverage maker is facing what company Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent called a “critical year” in an October conference call announcing a 14 percent drop in third-quarter earnings. In 2013 revenue fell 2.4 percent to $46.9 billion. For 2014 it’s expected to have dropped nearly 6 percent to $45.9 billion, according to a Thomson Reuters estimate. 

As part of its effort to trim $3 billion in expenses by 2019, the company has cut top-end perks, including putting executives in taxis instead of limos. But with these cuts have also come significant investments, including a minority stake in Keurig Green Mountain, the Waterbury, Vermont-based maker of premium single-cup coffeemakers. This is part of an effort to reduce its heavy dependence on soft drinks, which make up 70 percent of its global revenue stream.

Coca-Cola Co. will release its 2014 fourth-quarter results and annual report on Feb. 17. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect quarterly net profit to decline 8 percent, to $1.89 billion, on 2 percent lower revenue of $10.8 billion. Quarterly earnings per share minus one-time charges are expected to be 43 cents, down from 46 cents in the previous year.

Full-year revenue is seen declining 2 percent to $45.94 billion and net profit shrinking nearly 4 percent to $9.02 billion. Unadjusted earnings per share for the year are expected to be $2.04, down from $2.08 in 2013.  

“Revenues through the first nine months of the year [2014] remained flat, on the back of little to no growth in mature beverage markets in the developed world, and increased volatility in the emerging economies,” said a note from Trefis Research.

Chief Corporate Officer Kathy Waller acknowledged these issues in a conference call last month. “There are macroeconomic challenges in Brazil, there are challenges in China."

Coca-Cola is facing flagging sales in Europe, too, as competitor PepsiCo sees considerable gains with its enormous snack foods business in emerging markets. Coca-Cola’s main rival had a good run in 2014, raising its earnings forecast twice last year.

But it would be risky to bet against Coca-Cola, a consistent dividends-paying old-school staple of any well-balanced, buy-and-hold portfolio. The company’s stock has seen growth for six consecutive years.

On Monday, Morgan Stanley gave a nod to the company’s strategy, saying the bad news is behind it and the “critical” year of 2015 looks to be a start of a rebound for the 129-year-old company. The bank upgraded the company to “overweight,” which means it expects Coca-Cola to outpace the market, with a price target of $47. "Investors will start to price in improving fundamentals with rebounding topline growth on higher Coke pricing and Coca-Cola market share gains due to higher marketing," Morgan Stanley said.

Coca-Cola's stock price gained 52 cents on Thursday, closing at $43.51. The stock price has gained 3 percent since the start of the year. The company currently pays a dividend of 31 cents per share every quarter.