Customer interest in healthy dining options is generating menus with more colorful fruits, a new Technomic survey of more than 300 foodservice professionals finds. Blueberries are reportedly the third most-purchased fruit, following only strawberries and apples, according to a news release.

Chefs are getting creative and using blueberries in salads, smoothies and sauces, instead of using them only in breakfast items and desserts.

Blueberries are new hit at restaurantsOf the respondents, 73% said they were interesting in finding new ways to use blueberries. Half said that in the future they will offer more dishes featuring blueberries.

“We learned from a top 500 chain menu survey earlier this year that blueberry mentions on menus boomed 97 percent between 2007 and 2013,” Mark Villata, executive director for the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, said in the release. “Now this usage and attitude study gives us insight into why — that is, what are the drivers influencing decision makers to increase their use of blueberries?”

Eighty-two percent of chefs and operators said they liked using blueberries because they are a healthy option and they are low-labor and easy to use. Forty-two percent said that they like to use blueberries because menu prices can be higher for items that include the fruit.

“Blueberries are delicious, healthy and versatile, and add to our menu,” David Goldstein, executive chef at Los Angeles-based Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill, said in the release. “Our menu is loaded with fresh, healthy foods so when we put together our Harvest Quinoa Superfood Salad, we added dried blueberries. These days, I think customers expect to find blueberries in the healthiest options.”

In a customer survey conducted by Hebert Research in 2013, customers said that they believe blueberries are healthy; they said they perceive dishes with blueberries as healthier than others. Customers also think that dishes with blueberries are more appealing.