Mindy Kaling writes her own jokes for Protein One ads

As Fiber One struggles, General Mills pins some of its hopes on a protein line

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Mindy Kaling, who created and starred in her own TV series, "The Mindy Project," is now writing and starring in social media ads for new low-calorie snack bar Protein One.

The online ads, which debuted this week, take aim at questionable diet hacks such as skipping a glass of wine to cut back on calories or having a day out of each week to cheat and eat what you want.

Kaling, who has a baby, is "extraordinarily relatable to our consumer," says Courtney Hamacher, business unit director of General Mills' snack bar business.

While Kaling has yet to post the content on her own social media accounts, Protein One has started to share them.

The brand, which launched in June, ran 1980's-style spoof ads through the early fall. Called "Snack Emergency," they included spots for TV. One of those 15-second ads returned during Sunday night's airing of The Golden Globes. The ads, from Joan Creative, do not feature Kaling.

The Kaling work comes from Ketchum Sports and Entertainment. Watto Studios is the production agency and Mindshare is the media agency.

Protein One, a sub-brand of General Mills' Fiber One, is trying to carve out space in the already competitive snack bar category. "It was really about this trifecta of calories, protein and sugar," says Hamacher. "That hook of permissibility is important."

Fiber One itself hasn't been selling too well as people search for other types of bars. General Mills said in December that it saw an opportunity to renovate the Fiber One product line to make it more relevant, though details of that plan have not been shared yet. Bars in General Mills portfolio that have been growing include Larabar. Competitors include Kind, RXBar and seemingly dozens of others vying for a spot in the better-for-you snack aisle.

Seeing a trend toward protein-packed snacks during a year of ethnographic research, General Mills decided it was time to introduce a protein-focused snack bar lower in sugar and calories.

In December, General Mills said Protein One was showing some "early signs of success." Still, the company's U.S. market share in bars fell again in the first half of fiscal 2019, after declining in the second half of fiscal 2018. (The company's fiscal year ends in May.)

Protein One bars come in four flavors: chocolate chip, chocolate fudge, peanut butter chocolate, and strawberries and cream. Each has 90 calories, with 10 grams of protein and 1 gram of sugar. (By comparison, a peanut-butter chocolate-chip Larabar has 210 calories, 5 grams of protein and 17 grams of sugar.) Protein One is also a value play for General Mills. A box of five Protein One bars sells for around $4.19, or just under 84 cents per bar. Larabar is typically around $1.25 to $1.50 per bar, says Hamacher.

Kaling has posted ad-related content in the past, including when she starred in spots for McDonald's.

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