Linda McCartney Foods is hoping to breathe new life into the struggling meat-free category via a campaign challenging consumer perceptions that "meat-free equals taste free".

The Kitchen Table campaign invites vegetarians and meat-eaters to enter an online competition to find the tastiest meat-free dish, which will then become the next ready meal to join the 15-strong Linda McCartney veggie portfolio.

The push, which is targeted at "anyone looking to lead a healthier and more environmentally friendly lifestyle", would extend the appeal of the brand outside its core vegetarian consumer base, said brand owner Hain Celestial Group.

"Many people still think meat-free equals taste-free, a perception our new campaign will help change," said marketing manager James Gentle. "It will bring some much-needed new life into the category."

In the past year total meat-free sales dipped by 7% to £152.8m [IRI 52w/e 2 October 2010]. Bucking the downward trend, the Linda McCartney Foods brand recorded sales growth of 17.6% to £16.1m, boosted by a raft of new products introduced in the past 18 months.

The brand expects to attract one million new consumers in the next year on the back of the activity.

Three finalists will be selected by a panel of high-profile judges, including a member of the McCartney family and a supermarket food buyer, in February. The public will then vote for the winner, which will be announced on ITV's This Morning programme in April.

The winner's dish is expected to hit retail shelves in autumn next year.