Fasten your seatbelts, folks, it's going to be a bumpy ride. Over the next 140 pages, in screaming technicolour, we're taking you on a journey of this rollercoaster of a year. It's not always been scenic, it's often been downright scary, and at the back of one's mind, there's the fear that no sooner have we got over 2008, than an even worse ride could be beckoning. But with serious insight, comprehensive analysis and the odd laugh, here's the issue to take you away from Christmas parties and in-laws.

As we've said before, and as this issue again bears out, it's not all bad. Our Top Products Survey 2008 sees only three new number ones across 72 categories, a clear sign that while the financial world has been turned on its head, it's relatively stable in grocery. (And spare a thought for Ken Hanna, who is leaving the comfort of Cadbury for the snake pit that is car-dealer Inchcape. He must have jumped at the chance of a non-exec role at Tesco this week. Might this even be a route out?)

Our exhaustive survey also shows 78% of the categories up in value, versus 20% in decline. And though volumes have fallen 3% on average, 47% of the categories have seen volumes rise, including sports and energy drinks (up 16%) and perhaps more surprisingly, cakes (up 4%). As the recession bites, it seems we'll need high energy levels and plenty of comfort food.

So will the advances of the past 10 years be lost? To some, the return of 'tertiary' brands is a step back to an altogether more tacky era, and any product that comes at a premium is under particular threat. But the legacy of front-of-pack labelling is a lasting one. And, as well as a 3% fall in tobacco sales, Cheddar brand Cathedral City has left the pack of processed cheeses behind, while Lurpak also put further distance behind Flora. Add to this the continuing growth of Magnum, Kettle Chips and Warburtons, and it goes to show you can paint this market many colours, but it's not all black.