What is it about the world "wellness" that I find so objectionable?  Being a purist it's probably because I don't believe such a word exists. Not, at least, according to my copy of Chambers 20th Century Dictionary, or the New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors.

But it does make an appearance in the Oxford University Press 2005 New Oxford Spelling Dictionary. So it seems it has, like a stealth tax, crept into the language - and not just the English language, but also the global language of marketers.

The culprit behind this ugly word - what, after all, is wrong with "goodness" or "healthy"? -  is, arguably, the soft drinks industry. And it made its way into the drinks industry's lexicon during the 1990s.

Delving into the archives of the trade journal Soft Drinks International shows that the word first appeared in August 1997 with the publication of "The Wellness Factor", an article on so-called ACE drinks. These are drinks that contain vitamins A, C and E, and were, at the time, deemed to be the soft drinks industry's answer to those seeking to "self-medicate".

ACE drinks originated from Europe, principally Germany, and my theory regarding "wellness" is simply that it crept in because of poor translation from German to English.

At least "fortification" is a proper word. Fortification began to appear in 1996 when Soft Drinks International ran a feature headlined "Fortified beverages stimulate USA innovation". The article referred to a number of ingredients which have now become today's buzz words: antioxidants, omega 3, calcium, carotenoid etc.

The word "functional" also cropped up. One definition that appeared in print was "a food which contains a nutrient or ingredient at such a level to claim a benefit to health when consumed as part of one's daily diet". Functional ingredients could either be derived naturally, such as the current popularity of pomegranates and herbs, or contain vitamins and minerals which have been produced synthetically.

Then there's "nutraceutical". What's that? This is a hybrid word combining - as you may guess - NUTRition with pharmACEUTICAL which first appeared in the US, as did "Smart" - for brain health and "New Age" beverages. The latter's consumer was deemed to be the health-conscious baby boomer. In the UK, the more sober sounding "Adult Soft Drinks" and "Premium Soft Drinks" fitted this niche.

And more category definitions keep coming. Paul Moody, CEO at Britvic Soft Drinks, referred to "Better For You" drinks and the move toward "Indulgence" drinks at the recent launch of the 2006 Britvic Soft Drinks category report.

It's no wonder the consumer is confused.

A report just published by Datamonitor has confirmed that consumers are becoming more and more mistrusting of health and nutritional claims on food and drinks. Apparently, less than half (44%) of the UK population trusts nutritional claims made by food and drink companies.

Moreover, it's not just UK cynicism, but a worldwide phenomenon. Some 86% of US and European consumers surveyed said that they have become more distrustful of corporations within the past five years. "The consumer packaged goods industry in particular is suffering from a 'trust void'," said Daniel Bone, the report's author.

Functional, fortified, nutraceutical, indulgent - whatever the moniker, these beverages, which in the noughties are no longer niche products, are all promoted to the health-conscious consumer. Yet, there is still no overall regulatory approval mechanism to instill consumer confidence.

Labelling laws are complicated and convoluted. Last year saw the tightening of nutritional guidelines and a new EU food labelling directive (2003/89/EC) on allergens labelling. Meanwhile, the UK's Food Standards Agency has its "traffic lights" labelling initiative and an EU directive concerning Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products (THMPD), introduced last October, is a step in the right direction when it comes to herbal ingredients.

New EU legislation on nutrition and health claims is likely to be introduced in autumn 2006 and then become law six months later. Under this, any claim such as "low fat" will need to be an approved claim. It will be interesting to see what impact these measures have in restoring consumer confidence for the drink to do "exactly what it says on the label".

One country, at least, has the problem sorted. In Japan, the birthplace of functional foods and drinks, there is the "Foods for Specified Health Use" or FOSHU system. Consumers know that if the drink has FOSHU approval, its health claims have been investigated, a process which typically takes a year and is legally endorsed. Labels must include the approved health claim, the recommended daily intake, nutrition information, a warning against excessive intake and other precautionary information.

The scheme is voluntary. Companies can market drinks without obtaining FOSHU approval, so long as they refrain from making express claims that the product can reduce the risk of a disease or health-related condition.

At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter what words are used;  the consumer is no fool and needs clear, honest information.