Cream and cream products

1. Definitions

Cream is the fat-rich fraction of milk that is extracted by an appropriate process, e.g. centrifugation, and has the same phase distribution as milk (oil in water) (cf. figure).

Figure: Cream is produced from milk by enrichment of the milkfat through centrifugation, with separation of the skimmed milk

Cream obtained from whey must be described as whey cream. A blend of whey cream and cream must be labelled as cheesemaking cream or whey cream.

2. Description

The fat content of cream varies according to its intended use, the upper limit being approx. 800 g/kg for technological reasons.

Cream for the retail trade is generally pasteurised or undergoes UHT (ultra-high temperature) processing, and may contain up to 30 g additional milk components per kilogram as well as additives in conformity with the Additives Ordinance, e.g. thickeners, emulsifying agents and stabilisers in whipping cream. With regard to prevention of the addition of water, the same requirements apply to cream as to milk. There must therefore be at least 85 g/kg of ‘fat-free dry matter’ in the fat-free fraction (serum), i.e. for a cream with a fat content of 350 g/kg cream, the fat-free dry matter must be at least 55.25 g/kg cream.

The fat-free dry matter in whole cream (which contains 35% fat according to Swiss legislation) is usually around 58 to 62 g/kg cream. In a number of European countries whole cream contains 30% fat.
Depending on the product, it may be even higher if milk-protein concentrates have been added.

3. Classification by Fat-Content Stage (Swiss Legislation)

Cream is classified according to fat content levels in accordance with the Swiss Ordinance on foodstuffs of animal origin as described in the following table (as at May 2016).

Fat Content in g/kg



≥ 150

Half cream or Coffee cream

Whippable half cream often has a fat content of 25%.

≥ 350

Full cream, Whipping cream, Cream

Pasteurised: Limited authorisation of thickeners and emulsifying agents

Other cream products: more additives allowed.

≥ 450

Double cream

Example: Crème de Gruyère


Thickened cream

Cream that has become thick-to be-spreadable through the addition of thickeners


Cultured cream, including crème fraîche

Fermented with suitable microorganisms, generally mesophilic lactococci and Leuconostoc, with the creation of flavour compounds, in particular diacetyl.

4. Mean Chemical Composition of Cream

The chemical characterisation is subdivided into major, minor and trace components. Average values for the most important products available on the Swiss market are listed in Tables 1 and 2 (Agroscope data).

Table 1: Mean chemical composition of the major and minor components of cream products (in g/kg)
Contents Full Cream Half Cream UHT  Half Cream PAST  Coffee Cream 
Fat 349-351  247-255  266-292  147-153 
Dry matter 305-410  319-325  333-351  222-228 
Water 590-595  675-681  649-667  772-778 
Fat-free DM* 55-60  69-75  67-75  70-78 
Protein 19-21  25-27  22-24  26-28 
Lactose 30-32  36-38  31-35  36-40 
Ash 4.3-4.7  5.6-6.0  5.0-5.3  6.2-7.2 
Cholesterol 0.91-1.11  0.72-0.92  0.65-0.77  0.49-0.51 
Sodium* 0.24-0.26  0.21-0.47  0.32-0.38  0.55-1.01 
Calcium 0.4-0.8  0.8-0.85  0.75-0.81  0.89-0.93 
Potassium 1.0-1.3  1.35-1.6  1.2-1.5  1.36-1.46 
Magnesium 0.06-0.065  0.08-0.09  0.05-0.09  0.074-0.083 
Phosphorus 0.5-0.9  0.7-0.77  0.55-0.7  0.77-1.05 
Table 2: Mean chemical composition of the trace components of cream products (in mg/kg)
Contents Full Cream  Half Cream UHT  Half Cream PAST  Coffee Cream 
Iron 0.43-0.83  0.35-0.65  0.22-0.45  0.15-0.45 
Copper 0.025-0.051  0.025-0.043  0.022-0.042  0.015-0.041 
Vitamin A 3.7  2.6  2.7  1.4 
Vitamin E  8.0  6.9  6.2  3.4 
Vitamin B1 0.2  0.21  0.23  0.17 
Vitamin B2 1.3  1.4  1.4  1.4 
Vitamin B6 0.25  0.24  0.29  0.21 
Data source:
Sieber R., Badertscher R., Eyer H., Fuchs D., Nick B., 1996. Beitrag zur Kenntnis der Zusammensetzung von schweizerischem Voll-, Halb- und Kaffeerahm. Mitt. Gebiete Lebensm. Hyg. 87, 103-110, 653.