During the separation of whole milk, two streams are produced: the fat-depleted stream, which produces the beverage milks as described above or skim milk for evaporation and possibly for subsequent drying, and the fat-rich stream, the cream. This usually comes off the separator with fat contents in the 35-45% range. Cream is used for further processing in the dairy industry for the production of ice cream or butter, or can be sold to other food processing industries. These industrial products normally have higher fat contents than creams for retail sale, normally in the range of 45-50% fat. A product known as "plastic" cream can be produced from certain types of milk separators. This product has a fat content approaching 80% fat, but it remains as an oil-in-water emulsion (the fat is still in the form of globules and the skim milk is the continuous phase of the emulsion), unlike butter which also has a fat content of 80% but which has been churned so that the fat occupies the continuous phase and the skim milk is dispersed throughout in the form of tiny droplets (a water-in-oil emulsion).

For retail cream products, the fat is normally standardized to 35% (heavy cream for whipping), 18% or 10% (cream for coffee or cereal). Higher fat creams have also been produced for retail sale, a product known as double cream has a fat content of 55% and is quite thick. Creams for packaging and sale in the retail market must be pasteurized to ensure freedom from pathogenic bacteria. Whipping cream is not normally homogenized, as the high fat content will lead to extensive fat globule aggregation and clustering, which leads to excessive viscosity and a loss of whipping ability. This phenomena has been used, however, to produce a spoonable cream product to be used as a dessert topping. Lower fat creams (10% or 18%) can be homogenized, usually at lower pressure than whole milk.