US spirits maker Brown-Forman said it will trim 33 jobs and streamline its sales operations following a decade of distributor consolidation and technological innovation.

Fewer US distributors and new technology that allows distillers to track sales electronically mean Brown-Forman needs fewer sales employees, spokesman Phil Lynch said. The company's three sales units will be combined into a single point of contact for distributors, and savings will be redirected toward marketing.

"We're aligning our selling organisation with our distributor network and putting ourselves in a better position to service customers in the marketplace," James Bareuther, president of Brown-Forman Spirits Americas, told investors during a conference call. "From the standpoint of improving efficiency and driving top-line growth, it will be very substantial."

Brown-Forman will boost its consumer marketing efforts by enlarging its
Jack Daniel's and Southern Comfort global brand teams. The company will also form three new brand teams to represent Finlandia, developing brands (including Glenmorangie) and heritage brands (including Canadian
Mist), and add to its field marketing staff.

The changes will cost Brown-Forman 3 cents a share, or between $3m and $4m, in the second quarter. That figure is included in the 8 cents a share Brown-Forman has already said it will spend in fiscal 2003 as part of an ongoing business investment program.