CHICAGO — Away-from-home soup and salad purchases are on the rise,and salads topped with chicken continue to rank high among consumers, according to market researcher Technomic.

The research firm found that 62 percent of consumers order soup at least occasionally during restaurant visits, up from 43 percent two years ago, and 76 percent of consumers purchase salad away from home, up from 66 percent.

“Healthy options and portion variety are driving factors in today’s soup and salad menu positioning,” said Sara Monnette, director of consumer research at Technomic. “Operators are revamping their menus in response to consumer demand for soup and salad as a standalone entree, side substitution, an appetizer, or a component of a combo meal. There are many menu variations in which soups/salads are now offered.”

Overall, soup and salads are the two most common appetizers at both limited-service and full-service restaurants. Salads are the third most frequently listed entrée on the menu at limited-service and the fourth at full-service. Salads with chicken are the leading entrée variety at full-service followed by Caesar.

The motivation for such purchases comes from a desire for lighter, healthier foods as 78 percent of consumers who purchase salads more often said they are seeking a healthier option and 49 percent want something lighter. Additionally, 53 percent of consumers agreed that dressings are a key component of a good salad.