For Award-Winning Producer Aires de Jaén, Sustainability Is Key to Quality

The producers behind Aires De Jaén say winning two Gold Awards at the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition validates their efforts to create a circular economy.

(Photo: Aires de Jaén)
By Paolo DeAndreis
Apr. 17, 2023 13:31 UTC
(Photo: Aires de Jaén)

The pro­duc­ers behind Aires de Jaén are cel­e­brat­ing the two Gold Awards they won at the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

They said the awards con­firm their vision and vin­di­cate the invest­ments made by the com­pany in the last sev­eral years.

We are increas­ingly focused on the cir­cu­lar econ­omy… At the point where we are now, there are no left­overs from the olive milling oper­a­tions. We pro­duce zero waste.- Matias López Sanchez-Polaina, pro­duc­tion gen­eral man­ager, Aires de Jaén

We are very happy with the wins,” Matias López Sanchez-Polaina, the gen­eral man­ager of pro­duc­tion, told Olive Oil Times.

I’m happy for us and our work­ers, experts and col­lab­o­ra­tors who make this pos­si­ble,” he added. It val­i­dates our path of cre­at­ing a cir­cu­lar econ­omy and being sus­tain­able.”

See Also:Producer Profiles

It is the fifth time the pro­duc­ers’ extra vir­gin olive oils have received top awards at the com­pe­ti­tion.

Situated in Jaén – the Andalusian province respon­si­ble for a sig­nif­i­cant share of Spanish olive oil pro­duc­tion – Aires de Jaén’s olive groves sit along­side the Guadalquivir River.

That is where our Finca Badenes extra vir­gin olive oil is born,” López Sanchez-Polaina said. It is an area ded­i­cated to olive grow­ing since Roman times. Since then, the river has been called the gold river.”

Today, the com­pany exports extra vir­gin olive oil to dozens of coun­tries, man­ages its own mill and can store up to 20 mil­lion liters of olive oil. The farms’ olive groves include tra­di­tional orchards and high-den­sity (inten­sive) and super-high-den­sity (super-inten­sive) plan­ta­tions.

Most of Aires de Jaén’s olive oil is pro­duced from Arbequina, Picual, Empeltre and Frantoio cul­ti­vars, which they blend before export­ing over­seas.

Our fam­ily started as farm­ers at the Finca Los Badenes in 1965, and 30 years later, our par­ents started cul­ti­vat­ing olive trees,” López Sanchez-Polaina said.

After sev­eral expe­ri­ences in food multi­na­tion­als, the gen­eral direc­tor and his sis­ter Rosa took charge of the com­pany in 2010 with the goal of sus­tain­abil­ity. Their three nephews are also active in the export divi­sion of the com­pany.

Every year, its indus­trial plant bot­tles up to nine mil­lion liters of olive oil. Half of the energy required to pro­duce our olive oil bot­tles comes from solar energy,” López Sanchez-Polaina said.


As a large pro­ducer and exporter, the com­pany also relies on a net­work of olive farms, which fol­low stan­dard prac­tices.

We are increas­ingly focused on the cir­cu­lar econ­omy,” López Sanchez-Polaina said. Take the veg­e­ta­tion [olive waste] water. It con­sti­tutes approx­i­mately half of what the olive pro­duces. We are re-using it to clean the olives and treat­ing it to re-use it in the field.”

Leaves and branches from prun­ing and mill oper­a­tions enrich the soil. The olive pits are also used as fuel for the fac­tory water sys­tems.


At the point where we are now, there are no left­overs from the olive milling oper­a­tions,” López Sanchez-Polaina said. We pro­duce zero waste.”

Given the uncer­tain­ties of the cli­mate, chang­ing local and European Union reg­u­la­tions and the need to limit water use, Aires de Jaén does not irri­gate its groves with sur­face water.


The irri­ga­tion infra­struc­ture runs about half a meter into the ground to min­i­mize evap­o­ra­tion,” López Sanchez-Polaina said, sug­gest­ing that olive pro­duc­ers play a crit­i­cal role in tak­ing care of the envi­ron­ment and pass­ing the approach to the new gen­er­a­tions.

López Sanchez-Polaina cites daily care of the groves as one of the secrets behind the qual­ity of the prod­uct.


It is cru­cial,” he said. Looking at the olives, at the health of the trees and then choos­ing the exact tim­ing for har­vest. For our early har­vest prod­ucts, we will wait for the green olive to start turn­ing pur­ple.”

Given the early har­vest needs and the daily tem­per­a­tures, which remain high in October, when the har­vest usu­ally begins, the com­pany keeps an eye open on the tem­per­a­ture of the olives.

We do not want to col­lect olives at high tem­per­a­tures,” López Sanchez-Polaina said. This means to avoid the har­vest in the warmest hours of the day, and it implies a very quick trans­fer of the olives to our olive mill.”

Sometimes, even in November, tem­per­a­tures are still so high,” he added. Only 10 or 15 years ago, we would not have been here think­ing about how to approach this prob­lem.”

As a result, Aires de Jaén has invested in tech­nol­ogy to keep the olives cool from reach­ing the mill until the com­ple­tion of the trans­for­ma­tion process.

We work very hard to avoid the olive and olive paste tem­per­a­ture exceed­ing 23 ºC,” López Sanchez-Polaina said.


Oleotourism and learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties tar­geted to the con­sumers are also part of the efforts of the com­pany to spread a cul­ture of high-qual­ity pro­duc­tion,” he added.

Consumers are invited to the com­pa­ny’s premises to dis­cover the sur­round­ings, explore the groves, and directly assist in pro­duc­tion.

Many events in ancient and more mod­ern his­tory have hap­pened in the region, so we can com­bine such his­toric land­marks and loca­tions with inter­est shown by many con­sumers to explore the olive oil world,” López Sanchez-Polaina said.

They can taste our olive oils directly from the hands of our experts, as to live an enrich­ing expe­ri­ence,” he added. Increasingly, our chal­lenge is to help con­sumers see the dif­fer­ences between a reg­u­lar extra vir­gin olive oil and the more exquis­ite, fra­grant taste of high-qual­ity prod­ucts.”

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