Great French bake-off: pastry family rows over election

French bakery group Holder CEO Francis Holder (R), pictured in 2011, has come under scorn from his own employees and son after aligning his company as an offical supporter of Francous Fillon

It's rolling pins at dawn as the French presidential campaign enters the final stages, with the scion of a leading bakery chain feuding with his son and staff over which candidate to back.

The kerfuffle began at the weekend when Francis Holder, head of the group that owns Paul bakeries and Laduree macaroon shops, appeared in a video endorsing conservative candidate Francois Fillon.

Presenting himself as "the ambassador of the company's 14,000 people", the 78-year-old baker said Fillon's promise of "liberation through work" chimed with the demands of his staff.

"It's what all the staff are asking for: to free up work, to be able to work when you want to work more," the suited, white-haired entrepreneur declared in the video that was shared on the "Fillon 2017" Twitter account.

Hearing themselves described as supporters of the scandal-hit Fillon, some of Holder's staff nearly choked on their croissants and some customers also took umbrage.

On social media several voters called for a boycott of Paul over Holder's endorsement of the Republicans nominee, who has been charged with giving his wife a suspected fake job as a parliamentary aide.

But the most stinging rebuke came from Holder's own son David, head of Laduree, who issued a statement distancing himself from his father's remarks.

"David Holder wants it to be known that he will never adopt a political stance on behalf of Maison Laduree's employees," he said in a statement.

"Maison Laduree respects the freedom of opinion of all its workers," he said, calling the image of his company and its colourful almond treats "purely one of sweetness and gluttony."

On Monday, a chastened Francis expressed regret, saying he had only meant to "express a personal opinion".

The Holder house was already divided before he publicly batted for Fillon.

Francis's wife Francoise, a fellow director of the Holder group, is a die-hard supporter of Fillon's arch-rival, Emmanuel Macron.

Explaining her choice of the 39-year-old centrist, she said last year: "What I like most about him is that he is innovative, reform-minded and wants to end... the divisions that are killing us."