Nutraceutical and functional food market are one of the fastest-growing food segments in the newer food product development category. In the recent past, focus of beverage industry has shifted towards making food more nutritious and functionally enriched. To load the food with nutraceutical functionality, herbal sources having target functional compounds are either directly used as food or for separation of target compounds. Among beverages, milk is considered as a wholesome complete food providing macro (fat, proteins, and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (calcium, selenium, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and pantothenic acid vitamin B5) in balanced proportions. However, limited access to milk in some regions of globe, low availability of certain minerals (iron), vitamins (folate), and other biomolecules (amino acids) compounded with issues like milk allergy, lactose intolerance, and hypercholesterolemia have forced some specific population groups to search for better milk alternatives which are more or at least equi-nutritional to conventional milk. Plant-based wholesome or blended milk analogs are better studied as inexpensive alternates to conventional milk for people who are in search of better alternates for one or other reason. The market of milk analogs is currently dominated by soya bean milk, oat milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, cocoa milk, multigrain milk etc. most of which are produced by controlled fermentation which owes to their functional bioactive composition. Such analogs are appreciated for their functionally active components which are often correlated to their health-promoting and disease-preventing properties. One major advantage of analogs over conventional milk is that the energy input per unit of milk produced is much less compared to animal milk while there is always an opportunity to manipulate their composition based on demand. However, the major limiting factor in the acceptance of such non-conventional beverages is their challenging production technology and poor sensory profile which is true particularly for beverages derived from legumes. These challenges provide an opportunity for both industries and research personals to put in major concerted efforts in the field of functional bioactive food segment to produce tailor-made novel beverages which are nutritional, economic and have improved functionality. Keeping in view the potential of plant-based milk alternates and associated challenges the aim of the present review is to give a scientifically comparative and conclusive overview of the present status, market potential, and health concerns of plant-based nondairy milk beverages.
Keywords: Conventional milk; functional compounds; future potential; lactose intolerance; milk analog; production technology; uneconomic production.